BALTIMORE -- The Ravens' first unit looked crisp, particularly running the hurry-up offense, but they couldn't get the ball in the end zone and the secondary gave up too many big plays in dropping their preseason home debut to the Detroit Lions 27-12.
Unlike in the opener vs. the Atlanta Falcons last week when the Ravens had three consecutive three-and-outs, quarterback Joe Flacco was more comfortable with better protection from an offensive line that featured Michael Oher starting for the second game in a row at left tackle ahead of Bryant McKinnie. Veteran center Matt Birk started instead of rookie Gino Gradkowski.
Flacco ran the hurry-up offense almost exclusively in the first quarter as the Ravens posted nine first downs, which was nine more than they had during the same span against the Falcons. Receiver Jacoby Jones had a 35-yard gain on a reverse that set up a 50-yard field goal by Justin Tucker and spotted them a 6-0 lead.
That wasn't nearly enough, however, to hold off Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, probably the best big-play, pitch-and-catch combo in the game. Baltimore is a middling team when comes to red zone offense, and settling for field goals will prove problematic in the long run against high-powered offenses such as Detroit.
In two preseason games, the first unit has scored just one touchdown. In fairness to Flacco, he didn't have deep threat Torrey Smith who was a late scratch because of a sprained ankle and replaced by LaQuan Williams.
But for the second week in a row, the secondary didn't perform to the elite level that has been projected. Rookie Jimmy Smith, in his first preseason action since a back injury earlier this month, had good coverage on Johnson, who adjusted to a short throw by Stafford to haul in an 18-yard touchdown catch as the Lions took a 7-6 lead they'd never relinquish. Earlier in that drive, Cary Williams was beaten on a 57-yard catch by Johnson. Williams also was victimized by Falcons receiver Julio Jones.
Smith was hit with an illegal contact penalty after being beaten by Johnson, giving Detroit an automatic first down and leading to a 24-yard strike from Stafford to Titus Young to make it 14-6. Young appeared to be stopped inside the five-yard line but he broke the tackle by safety Emanuel Cook.
Stafford completed 12 of 17 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 145.2. Johnson had five catches for 111 yards and one score. The Ravens also sabotaged themselves with six first-half penalties.
There's still a lot of work to be done.