** Despite the lopsided score, ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley says the starting offense has some work to do before the regular season.
As far as the first-team offense goes, it was a forgettable performance. Joe Flacco went 7-of-9 for 57 yards in one quarter of work. His worst throw was getting the ball late to Jacoby Jones on the sideline, where it was intercepted by former Ravens cornerback Danny Gorrer. The offensive line didn't open many holes for Ray Rice (7 yards on three carries) and let an unblocked Lavonte David sack Flacco, while left tackle Bryant McKinnie was standing and blocking no one).
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** Darin Gantt of NBC Sports' ProFootballTalk critiques the performance of the wide receivers behind Torrey Smith, who all need to step up with the absence of Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta from the Ravens offense this season.
Quarterback Joe Flacco was 7-of-9 with an interception in limited time. Torrey Smith caught a couple of passes, but Jacoby Jones didn’t, and the young guys they’re looking for progress from (Tandon Doss, Deonte Thompson) had a catch for 5 yards between them. It’s probably a good sign that recent pickup Visanthe Shiancoe caught three passes, as they’re short on tight ends at the moment.
Otherwise, the star of the night for the Ravens was special teamer/wideout LaQuan Williams, who caught a touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown.
Again, it’s early. But over the next two weeks, when the regulars play more, someone is going to have to emerge from an odd lot of players to be a reliable target for Flacco.
This moment, before a sparse crowd to begin the preseason, represented another marker in their movement past linebacker Ray Lewis (retired) and safety Ed Reed (now with the Houston Texans). This was another step into an era without former contributors such as wide receiver Anquan Boldin (San Francisco 49ers) and safety Bernard Pollard (Tennessee Titans), cornerback Cary Williams (Philadelphia Eagles) and linebackers Paul Kruger (Cleveland Browns) and Dannell Ellerbe (Miami Dolphins) who made last season memorable in Charm City.
Yes, these are still the Ravens, and Harbaugh remains their even, proven leader. Yes, this is football in early August, and a 44-16 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was only a tease of how this first fall without Lewis and Reed could go.
Still, there was a sense that this was a start, something different, as Baltimore moved into its new normal. The time to look back, to reflect, was over, the Ravens' big party in the Big Easy appearing distant.
** Columnist Martin Fennelly of The Tampa Tribune, compares Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to the Buccaneers' Josh Freeman.
Flacco has been to three AFC title games and is the reigning Super Bowl MVP. He has won nine playoff games in five seasons, a record six on the road. That’ll get you $120.6 million every time.
Look, the comparison is unfair. Freeman has yet to play on a team like the 2012 Ravens, or 2011 Ravens, or 2010 Ravens, and so on. Who said the life of an NFL starting quarterback is fair?
** The Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud notes that a lot of the Ravens' success Thursday night can be attributed to the Buccaneers' struggles in the secondary as the game progressed.
Seventeen of the Ravens' 24 first-half points came courtesy of three special teams mistakes: a fumbled punt, 58-yard kickoff return and blocked punt in the end zone.
But [Buccaneers coach Greg] Schiano's primary focus was the secondary, rebuilt after yielding nearly 400 passing yards per game and 30 touchdown passes overall last season.
"It was 3-0 at the end of the first quarter," Schiano said. "Certainly, it got sloppy there after that. We've got a long way to go as a football team. The good news is we have three games left to get better. Nor am I ready to go ballistic. The score is what it is. There will be some good things on that tape."