BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Ravens' starting offense began with a crisp touchdown drive and finished its night with another touchdown. It was what happened in between where things went terribly wrong for quarterback Joe Flacco & Co.
Three turnovers, including two critical interceptions by Flacco, were the lowlights in another sloppy preseason effort by the Ravens, who lost to the Carolina Panthers 34-27 on Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.
You can argue the Ravens were running a watered-down version of their offense. But there's no excuse for the continued lack of execution of it in the preseason. The Ravens have some work to do before kicking off the season at Denver in 14 days.
"We obviously turned the ball over, and you lose more games than you win in this league when you do that," Flacco said. "With what we did tonight, we're not going to win a lot of football games doing that."
Here's the good: Flacco was 8-of-8 for 82 yards on the two touchdown drives. Here's the bad: The Super Bowl MVP was 10-of-16 for 87 yards and two interceptions on the six other drives.
Flacco can't shoulder all the blame, especially with an offensive line that struggled to protect him. His first interception, which was returned 71 yards for a touchdown, was the result of Tandon Doss running the wrong route. A visibly upset Flacco yelled at Doss after the turnover.
The second interception was Flacco's fault. After Bernard Pierce's fumble led to another Carolina touchdown, Flacco drove the Ravens down the field before throwing a pass that was picked off by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who watched Flacco's eyes and jumped on the route over the middle. It was a bad decision and bad read by Flacco.
"It was just a lot of miscommunication, and I felt like we did a lot of good things, too," Flacco said. "In the regular season, we're not going to be able to say that. We'll have to come out here and continue to get back in games. Tonight was one of those games that we did a lot of good things, but we had some miscommunication and turned the ball over too much."
The Ravens got some of the bad taste out on the first-team offense's final drive. Flacco completed all three of his throws and finished it off with a 24-yard touchdown to Marlon Brown.
Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens' third preseason game:
Nearly every year, the Ravens uncover an undrafted rookie gem. This year, that would be Brown. He has too good of a timing with Flacco to be a rookie. He looks too polished to be an undrafted rookie. Here's the most remarkable part: Brown is eight months removed from knee surgery at Georgia. Now, after catching four passes for 59 yards and one touchdown from Flacco on Thursday night, Brown has to be a favorite to land either the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver jobs.
The Ravens got their first extensive look at wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Dallas Clark this preseason. Even though they have had nearly the same amount of practice time, Stokley looked much more comfortable in the offense than Clark. Stokley picked up a couple of third downs, which is why the Ravens signed him. Clark, on the other hand, didn't extend for one pass over the middle and dropped another pass, which was negated by a penalty.
One of the bright spots for the Ravens was the return of guard Marshal Yanda (shoulder) and cornerback Lardarius Webb (knee). The Ravens' offensive line looked dominant with Yanda and awful without him. It shows how valuable a Pro Bowl guard can be. Webb made three tackles and dove to break up a pass. Not sure if he's ready to handle a starting job right now, but he will make an impact on the team's nickel defense at the start of the season. Asked if he feels ready for the regular season, Webb said, "I'm just going to leave it up to the coaches. I'll be ready for his decision and do whatever the coaches want."
As for the other receivers battling for a job, Doss put himself on the bubble after another disappointing effort. When the Ravens asked Flacco what receiver he wanted in the 2011 draft, he selected Doss. But they have no connection on the field. Rookie seventh-round pick Aaron Mellette had one catch from Flacco but couldn't convert a third-and-2. He needs to have more strength to push upfield to convert in that situation.
In one of the more bizarre preseason games of the year, the Ravens allowed 34 points but only six were scored on the defense. All four touchdowns for Carolina were scored off returns: two interceptions (off Flacco and Tyrod Taylor), one fumble and one punt return. The defense held the Panthers' starting offense to 104 yards through three quarters. Defensive tackle Marcus Spears blew up a third-and-short early in the game, and nose tackle Terrence Cody made a nice stop as well. Middle linebacker Daryl Smith continues to be the Ravens' preseason defensive MVP, recording three tackles and a third-down sack of Cam Newton.