In perhaps the last preseason action this year for Joe Flacco, the lasting impression of the Ravens quarterback was his resilience.
Bouncing back from having an interception returned for a touchdown on the opening drive, Flacco threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns in Thursday night's 34-31 comeback win over the Washington Redskins before a half-filled M&T Bank Stadium.
In his first three series, Flacco struggled much like he did last week, completing 3 of 6 passes for 26 yards and an interception. He finished his three-quarter outing by connecting on 14 of 21 throws for 193 yards.
"I think we've got to be pretty happy with where we are," Flacco said. "Obviously there are some things to work on and we don't want to start that slow. But I think we picked it up and showed that we can do pretty well."
When the Ravens offensive line — which was without newly signed left tackle Bryant McKinnie — allowed a clear path to Flacco, he failed to elude the pressure and create plays. When he was given time, Flacco was able to look downfield and pick apart Washington's secondary.
Flacco had three completions over 30 yards to three different targets. His 30-yard pass to Anquan Boldin set up the Ravens' first touchdown, a 3-yard run by Ray Rice. His 33-yard toss to tight end Ed Dickson led to a 35-yard touchdown strike to Lee Evans that tied the game at 14.
When the Redskins pulled ahead again, Flacco found Boldin for a 12-yard touchdown to tie the game.
"We came back after a slow start," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "We can't have those kinds of starts in the regular season."
The likely last preseason game for the Ravens starters this year — Harbaugh usually sits them for the final one — couldn't have started out worse for them.
The Ravens' first offensive drive ended with a touchdown — for the Redskins. DeAngelo Hall, who had six interceptions last season, jumped the route of Flacco's third pass of the game and then broke free of a tackle by the Ravens quarterback for a 52-yard return.
"DeAngelo sat all over that route, and you never want to start out like that," Flacco said. "It took us a drive to kind of pick it up from there, and you don't want to see that."
Washington's offense briefly came alive after John Beck replaced Rex Grossman at quarterback late in the first quarter. Beck's first throw was a 33-yard completion to Anthony Armstrong, who beat Ravens cornerback Domonique Foxworth down the sideline.
Two plays later, Redskins running back Tim Hightower raced for a 37-yard touchdown by cutting back past a diving cornerback Cary Williams and outrunning safety Tom Zbikowski to the end zone. The Ravens found themselves in a 14-0 hole in the first quarter where they were outgained 110-59.
"We never like to give up yards running the ball, but the bottom line is when you look at that play, there were so many mistakes just on that one play," linebacker Ray Lewis said. "I think this is just an opportunity for us to always get better. But I really like the way we came out and faced adversity."
After getting crushed in the first quarter, the Ravens did the same to Washington in the second quarter. After a horrible start (3-for-6 for 26 yards) on the game's first three possessions, Flacco started getting time in the pocket to hit the deep throws and went 7-for-9 for 134 yards on his next two drives.
The Ravens did need some help on their first scoring drive. The Redskins' Lorenzo Alexander ran into punter Sam Koch, extending the possession for the Ravens.
It was Flacco's turn to keep the drive alive as he hit Anquan Boldin twice on third down for completions of 18 and 30 yards. Ray Rice finished off the 13-play series with a 3-yard touchdown run.
When the Ravens got the ball again, Flacco continued to connect on the big plays. His 33-yard pass to tight end Ed Dickson down the seam moved the Ravens into Washington territory. Flacco then delivered a perfectly thrown pass to Lee Evans — who barely had a step on Hall — in the end zone to tie the game at 14 in the second quarter.
"Joe threw a great ball; he put it right where you want it," Evans said. "I couldn't ask for it to be better. All I wanted to do was make a play on it."
For the second straight week, the Ravens defense didn't hold up in the final minute of the first half. Grossman, who re-entered the game, took advantage of a miscommunication in the Ravens secondary for a 24-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss.
As Moss caught the ball, cornerback Jimmy Smith was trailing on the play. But the rookie first-round pick let Moss run past him, which might have been an indication that he was expecting help deep from safety Ed Reed.
Three big-play touchdowns — Hall's 52-yard interception return, Hightower's 37-yard run and Hall's 24-yard reception — put the Ravens in a 21-14 halftime deficit.
"We had some communication issues on their two touchdown plays," Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. "We can't have that once the regular season comes. We had a chance to makes some plays and get off the field, and we didn't make them."
Flacco kept a hot hand into the second half, when he went 5-for-7 for 50 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter. His 12-yard touchdown pass to Boldin in the back of the end zone tied the game at 21.
"We're a work in progress," said Boldin, who had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown. "I think we took a step in the right direction tonight. On the downside, I think we shot ourselves in the foot too much. Before the preseason is over, that's something we need to get rid of."
Trailing 31-27, the Ravens had two opportunities to pull off the comeback win late in the fourth quarter. But rookie running back Anthony Allen had Tyrod Taylor's fourth-down pass go off his fingertips in the end zone.
The Ravens then made it back into the red zone in the final minute of the game after LaQuan Williams' 38-yard punt return. Brandon Jones' diving 9-yard touchdown — his first catch of the preseason was ruled a score after the officials reviewed it on replay — put the Ravens ahead, 34-31 with 22 seconds left.
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