Flacco and Suggs return in third preseason win
BALTIMORE — When the offensive starters were introduced Saturday night, Joe Flacco’s name was once again the last one called.
The Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback took the M&T Bank Stadium field for his first game action since tearing his ACL and MCL 278 days earlier.
The Ravens got the leader of their defense back, too. Terrell Suggs made his preseason debut after missing nearly all of last season with a torn Achilles tendon suffered in Week 1.
With its two most important players back, Baltimore dominated the visiting Detroit Lions 30-9 in the team’s third preseason game. Flacco and Suggs each played the first quarter before calling it a night. Neither showed any signs of rust.
“It was good to get back out in the huddle and go through it all again. It was a lot of fun,” Flacco said. “There was probably a little bit of ‘ Man, I haven’t been out here for a while,’ but it was just excitement. It was fun to get back out there and feel a part of the team again.”
Flacco completed 11-16 passes for 94 yards, including three to newly acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace for 37 yards. He was sacked by former Raven Haloti Ngata, leaving the fans in attendance holding their collective breaths, but popped right up.
“I didn’t really get hit there,” he said. “I was moving around and I just dove into a hole because the play was over that that point. So I didn’t really get touched today, the way I view it.”
Flacco led Baltimore on a 10play, 53-yard drive that ended with a 40-yard Justin Tucker field goal on his first series back.
“I thought he looked good. I felt good about how Joe looked. He operated,” head coach John Harbaugh said. “We just have to continue to get our passing game oiled up.”
Suggs made his impact felt immediately, as he stuffed Lions running back Ameer Abdullah for a one-yard gain on Detroit’s first rushing play of the night.
“I was really happy. I needed to feel a hit, I needed to get hit,” he said. “I needed to get action at me, so it felt really good that they came right at me the first couple of plays.”
Unlike Flacco, who has practiced every day since the start of training camp and announced earlier in the week that he would play against the Lions, Suggs was a bit of surprise when he took the field in uniform. He practiced for the first time just 12 days earlier.
“I didn’t want the first time I saw some real action to be on opening day,” he said. “I definitely wanted to get back in there and get back accustomed to the speed of the game, and my keys and seeing and reacting to what I’m used to reacting to. It was definitely a necessity for me to get out there.”
The return of Flacco and Suggs was marred by a pair of key injuries for the Ravens. Veteran tight end Benjamin Watson went down on the first play from scrimmage with what was announced as a torn Achilles tendon. Rookie running back Kenneth Dixon, who received six of Baltimore’s 12 first half rushing attempts, went down with a sprained knee on a goal-line carry late in the second quarter. Harbaugh said Dixon will receive an MRI Sunday, but that it did not look overly serious.
The Lions played starting quarterback Matt Stafford the entire first half. The Ravens held him to 14-23 passing for 95 yards. He was sacked twice and intercepted by Anthony Levine, who played safety with starter Lardarius Webb not in uniform. It was Levine’s second-straight game with a pick.
“I loved the sacks. I loved another interception by Levine at the end of the half, which was big for us,” Harbaugh said. “I thought our guys all played good, tough coverage. Nothing got behind us, even when they completed the crossing routes and the flat routes, we were right there to make good tackles. Our guys played with a certain tenacity.”
Backup quarterback Ryan Mallett played for the second and third quarters for the Ravens. He completed 10-15 attempts, including a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Butler with 2:48 left in the first half. Mallett also rushed for a touchdown, punching it in from one yard out with 1:21 left in the opening half.
Third string-quarterback John Johnson played the fourth quarter. He completed 4-6 passes for 29 yards and also added a oneyard rushing score.
Tucker connected both of field goal tries and backup kicker Will Lutz hit his one attempt.
Running back Terrence West continued his impressive preseason, gaining 43 yards on seven carries.
The Ravens have won all three of their exhibitions, and will wrap up the preseason Thursday in New Orleans.
“We’re 3-0. I know it’s preseason, but it’s always good to win,” West said. “You can go 0-4 in the preseason and that can roll over into the season, so we’re on the right track right now.”
Lions head coach Jim Caldwell was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator for the 2012 Super Bowl season. Ngata, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and linebacker Josh Bynes all played on that Ravens squad but were suited up for Detroit on Saturday. With 7:38 remaining in the game, Ngata and Boldin were shown on the video board to a roar from the remaining M&T Bank Stadium crowd.