Lions look unprepared in exhibition loss to Ravens
Baltimore — If this was the dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Detroit Lions look ill-prepared for Week 1.
The starting offense couldn't stop shooting itself in the foot and the defensive starters' bend-don't-break strategy bent for a while, before snapping like a twig in Saturday's 30-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Despite playing the entire first half, the starting offense continued its touchdown-less preseason. A pair of trips to the red zone resulted in just three points after penalties derailed both possessions. Running back Ameer Abdullah, making his preseason debut, appeared to clear the corner for an easy 15-yard touchdown run, only to have the play called back for a holding infraction against rookie tight end Cole Wick.
On the second series a 1st-and-10 from the 14-yard line quickly deteriorated into 3rd-and-37 from the 41 following a sack and a pair of penalties called against offensive linemen Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. Reiff was flagged for unnecessary roughness, pulling the defender who beat him for the sack off quarterback Matthew Stafford.
"Any time you play, you put the pads on, you want to put the ball in the end zone," Stafford said. "We weren't able to do it the first three. It's on us to make sure we get that going in the right direction and make sure, Week 1, we're ready to go."
Reiff was beaten for a second sack, by former Grand Valley State standout Matt Judon, on a third-down play in the third quarter. The hit jarred the ball loose from backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky's grasp, but it was ultimately recovered by Reiff.
In total, Detroit was flagged eight times in the first half for 80 yards, hurting the team on both sides of the ball.
Stafford certainly wasn't at his best. He completed 14 of his 23 throws for just 95 yards and an interception. He failed to recognize linebacker Anthony Levine in the passing lane while trying to find Anquan Boldin in the middle of the field, resulting in the pick. Levine brought the ball back to the Lions' 15-yard line and the Ravens needed just three plays to punch it into the end zone, expanding their lead to 20-3 late in the first half.
Beyond the stat line, Stafford had a miscommunication with receiver Marvin Jones on a deep throw that nearly resulted in a second turnover, and the quarterback made a poor decision to catch a batted ball well behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in a 9-yard loss. At least the Lions still managed to score points on that drive, thanks to strong-legged kicker Matt Prater knocking home a 60-yard field goal.
Defensively, the starters allowed the Ravens to open the contest with sustained drives of 10, 13 and nine plays, averaging 54 yards. But Baltimore was limited to two field goals on the series.
"We're still working on communication, adjusting to some of the new guys mixed in there," linebacker Tahir Whitehead said.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, almost making his preseason debut, completed 11 of his 16 throws for 94 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions.
With Ryan Mallett relieving Flacco, the Ravens ditched the dink-and-dunk approach on their next possession, needing just three plays to find paydirt when wide receiver Jeremy Butler beat cornerback Darrin Walls on a 25-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.
If Lions fans are looking for positives from the contest, there were few. The highlight for the Lions were the returns of linebacker DeAndre Levy and Abdullah to the lineup. After lengthy layoffs, both were on the field for multiple possessions in the first half. Levy recorded a pair of tackles, while Abdullah gained 16 yards on four carries.
The team's running game also flashed some promise. Abdullah had a gain of 11 yards to go along with the negated 15-yard scoring run and Theo Riddick bounced off would-be tacklers for a big, 34-yard pickup in the second quarter. Overall, Detroit gained 101 yards on 19 carries.
Most importantly, the Lions appeared to escape the contest without a significant contributor suffering an injury. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead did have to briefly exit the contest after being shaken up on a second-quarter tackle, but returned to action the next defensive series.