Tyrod Taylor, Lorenzo Taliaferro and Kamar Aiken did their best Joe Flacco, Ray Rice and Torrey Smith impersonations as the Baltimore Ravens knocked off the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1 of the NFL preseason 23-3.
Taylor led the way for the Ravens with 116 passing yards, 59 rushing yards and a touchdown toss, while Taliaferro added 71 yards on the ground and Aiken chipped in with 46 receiving yards.
San Francisco's offense was stuck in neutral most of the night, and Josh Johnson led the way with 63 passing yards, while Carlos Hyde tallied 39 rushing yards on five carries.
It certainly wasn’t Super Bowl XLVII (hey, at least the lights stayed on this time), but anytime the Harbaugh brothers matchup on the football field, it is noteworthy. Both the 49ers and Ravens were looking to get some early momentum with the 2014 campaign right around the corner in this preseason matchup.
John Harbaugh commented on the occasion, via CBS San Francisco: “It’ll be a great chance to get together, but (it’s all) football. So, I guess it’ll be exactly what it’s supposed to be with our family."
The 49ers wasted little time getting on the board and marched down the field on their opening drive for a field goal. Sports Illustrated’s Doug Farrar was particularly impressed with the efforts of young Hyde:
Baltimore responded with a touchdown drive of its own, and Farrar made sure to point out that Steve Smith looked to be in midseason form already:
However, it was Bernard Pierce who found the endzone from two yards out, as the Baltimore Ravens noted:
Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun passed along a quote from Pierce regarding the touchdown:
Outside of the early scoring, the Ravens defense made their presence felt with a first half interception. Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun gave credit where credit was due, but the NFL on ESPN and Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports were quick to point out who was on the throwing end of that pick:
Baltimore took a 13-3 lead into the locker room, but the 49ers had graver concerns than the scoreboard, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Baltimore took the first possession of the second half, but Taylor didn't do a lot to inspire any confidence. In fact, he threw an interception right into the hands of Chris Cook. Branch and Zrebiec noted just how unfortunate of a throw it was by Taylor when put into context:
To Taylor's credit though, he was at least making plays with his feet, as Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com acknowledged:
San Francisco put together a solid drive after that turnover and got deep into Baltimore territory behind Johnson. Johnson completed two straight passes for 26 yards and impressed Ravens writer Turron Davenport in the process:
However, the drive came to a halt when Johnson fumbled the snap deep in Baltimore territory for the game's fourth turnover.
Baltimore responded with another Justin Tucker field goal, but it was received Kamar Aiken who impressed on the drive, as Davenport and Zrebiec pointed out:
The third quarter came to an end, and it was painfully clear that the backups were on the field in terms of offensive production. Both teams seemed to be going through the motions, and the Ravens took a 16-3 lead into the final 15 minutes.
One player who was still bringing the intensity in the fourth quarter though was Baltimore running back Taliaferro. He actually led all rushers with 71 yards and helped the Ravens seize some field position back after starting a drive inside their own 10 yard line.
Christian Gin of Examiner.com took note:
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worse later in the fourth quarter when Lawrence Okoye left the game with an injury. Branch and Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com pointed out just how dire the situation was for the 49ers:
With Okoye off the field, Baltimore marched down the field and gradually killed the clock. The combination of Taylor's timely scrambles from the pocket, Taliaferro's bursts through the line and third-down conversions was enough to march nearly the length of the field to put the game away.
Taylor put an exclamation mark on the drive and contest, as Wilson pointed out:
The Ravens put the cherry on top with another interception, as Jason Butt of Scout.com and Zrebiec noted:
Baltimore's second preseason contest comes against the Dallas Cowboys Aug. 16, while San Francisco returns home to play the Denver Broncos Aug. 17.
Both squads will have a chance to test their secondaries against dangerous passing attacks, but the running back situations will be most interesting to watch.
Ray Rice is suspended for the first two regular season games, so Pierce's workload will be worth keeping track of as the preseason continues. What's more, Hyde has an opportunity to seize the No. 2 running back spot for the 49ers behind Frank Gore with a solid preseason.
Both were solid Thursday and will look to build on their performances as the season approaches.