Baltimore, MD (M&T Bank Stadium)
The Ravens-Jets game had all the makings for a high profile match up with drama. Baltimore thinks that they still have a rivalry with New York, the game was played on Monday, Mark Sanchez was making his first start at quarterback, two contributing players from the Ravens stout defense from 2008 were making their return as Jets (Bart Scott Jim Leonhard), and beloved former Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan was returning as the new head coach of the Jets. Despite all the dramatics involved, this was just a pre-season game.
The Jets started with the ball and Sachez's first pass was picked off by Baltimore's nose tackle Haloti Ngata and returned for a touchdown. Sanchez did not complete a pass until his eighth attempt for a measly check-down. The Ravens soon added a Ray Rice touchdown thereafter. Ray Rice is slowly emerging as the top running back on the Ravens' depth chart.
Sanchez and the Jets soon began to get their rhythm mid-way through the second quarter. However, the tide really did not shift until Ed Reed and Ray Lewis took the rest of the night off. Sanchez's final drive was largely supported by the outstanding play of Leon Washington. Washington, much like Rice, is showing his team that he should be the featured back. The Jets will continue to get him involved in their offense similar to how the Saints get Reggie Bush involved. Washington caught Sanchez's first touchdown pass of the game with 5:18 left in the half. Sanchez ended the night completing 3 of 8 passes for 43 yards (35 of which went to Washington on 2 passes) and 1 interception.
Coach Ryan, however, decided to pull Sanchez after the scoring drive, as he wanted to see Kelly Clemens take some reps with the first team. This move proved to be ill-fated as Clemens threw a terrible pass that was intercepted by Jameel McClain as he ran the ball back for the Ravens' second defensive touchdown of the game, and a 21-7 lead into halftime.
The only other lone bright spot for the Jets during the first half was the play of Leon Washington. Do not be surprised to see Washington get twice as many touches as Thomas Jones during the 2009 campaign.
Joe Flacco once again looked as sharp as ever, hitting his receivers on skinny routes with blazing speed and accuracy. Flacco continues to dazzle fans and players alike, but his choices at receiver are still questionable at best. Flacco completed 8 of 18 passes for 120 yards. Flacco looked like a contestant on the Iron Chef, slicing and dicing the Jets defense like helpless garnish.
The Jets have their quarterback competition, and the Ravens have their kicker competition. However, the choice is clearer for the Ravens' kickers as rookie kicker Graham Gano missed a dead center 30-yard field goal. Steven Hauschka has all but sealed up the roster spot. Rex Ryan wanted to name his opening day starter by week 3 of the pre-season, but I am not so sure that the decision will be arrived upon so easily. Sanchez looked very much like a rookie quarterback, getting sacked, dropping hand-offs, and throwing balls to the opposing team (Ray Lewis should have had an interception as well).
The Jets responded with 10 points in the third quarter to narrow the Ravens lead to four points. Steven Hauschka added a 42-yard field goal to stretch the advantage to seven points.
The Jets drove late in the game, and were able to punch it through via quarterback sneak with 22 seconds remaining on the clock. The play was setup thanks to a Ravens' defensive holding penalty. The Jets went for the win by attempting a 2-point conversion, but failed as the Ravens' defensive pressure forced Jets quarterback Erik Ainge to hurry is pass, falling incomplete.