Football / Sports

Ravens defeat the Saints 22-13 to end preseason undefeated for first time since 2009

NEW ORLEANS -- Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson broke sharply into his pattern across the middle of the end zone, creating separation with his speed behind the New Orleans Saints' secondary.

Thompson made himself an easy target to find as backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor delivered a strike to hit him in stride for an 8-yard touchdown pass during the second quarter of a 22-13 victory Thursday night in the preseason finale at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Ravens ended the preseason undefeated for the first time since 2009.

The touchdown likely further cemented Thompson's burgeoning status on the roster as it marked the third consecutive preseason game that he's scored a touchdown. Arguably the Ravens' fastest player with 4.23 speed in the 40-yard dash, Thompson is a strong candidate to survive Saturday's final roster cutdown to 53 players for the third consecutive year.

The Ravens like Thompson's explosiveness and are encouraged by how he's upgraded his consistency at catching the football after some lapses in concentration over the past few years. Thompson caught a touchdown pass on a fade route against the Washington Redskins in the third preseason game. He also returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.

Should the Ravens keep six wide receivers, Thompson and Michael Campanaro are expected to have an edge over Kamar Aiken.

Unlike the Ravens' last trip to New Orleans two seasons ago when they defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII, this wasn't a night containing high stakes or electrical outages.

This was a relatively low-key affair where players like Thompson made their case to the Ravens' executives and coaches that they deserve a place on the 53-man regular-season roster. The only starter to play in the game for the Ravens was rookie first-round linebacker C.J. Mosley

The NFL deadline to cut the roster is Saturday at 4 p.m., but little drama surrounds the Ravens' decisions. The most interesting aspect of the next few days for the Ravens should be whether they can pull off any trades for a cornerback due to injuries at the position to top cornerbacks Jimmy Smith (chest contusion, lungs), Lardarius Webb (lower back) and Asa Jackson (sprained ankle) or make waiver wire claims to try to improve the back end of their roster.

During the first half, backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor followed through on his vow days before kickoff to prove he can manufacture drives with his arm and his feet.

With the exception of an interception in the Saints' end zone on a pass he heaved in the general direction of Aiken, Taylor had a generally solid performance. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and one interception for a 71.8 quarterback rating.

He led the Ravens on four scoring drives, also displaying his ability to buy time with his elusiveness. The former Atlantic Coast Conference Offensive Player of the Year rushed for 24 yards on three carries, converting a pair of third downs on scrambles. Taylor's 9-yard scramble to the right gave the Ravens a first down at the Saints' 10-yard line, three plays before his touchdown pass to Thompson.

Taylor was replaced in the third quarter by rookie quarterback Keith Wenning, a sixth-round pick from Ball State. Wenning completed 4 of 6 passes on his first drive, but had a third-down pass at the Saints' 14-yard line batted down by defensive end Tyrunn Walker.

The Ravens were forced to settle for a 32-yard field goal by Justin Tucker for a 19-13 lead. Tucker connected on four field goals, including a long of 45 yards.

Wenning is hoping to stick with the Ravens as their third quarterback, but the Ravens could opt to release him and attempt to sign him to their practice squad.

The Saints' lone touchdown came in the first quarter on a three-yard pass to running back Travaris Cadet for a brief 7-3 lead.

The Ravens responded with three scores in the second quarter to build a 16-13 lead by halftime.

In the final seconds of the first half, undrafted rookie cornerback Tramain Jacobs committed a mistake that cost the Ravens three points.

Jacobs was penalized for running into kicker Derek Dimke on a 54-yard try, giving Dimke another shot as he connected on the ensuing field goal from 49 yards out as the first half ended.

Meanwhile, Campanaro had another solid game.

That included a 39-yard catch for the Clarksville native up the right sideline late in the third quarter on a pass from Wenning. Campanaro caught three passes for 54 yards, returned three kickoffs for 78 yards and two punts for 20 yards.

Rookie running backs Lorenzo Taliaferro and Fitzgerald Toussaint churned out yards. A fourth-round pick from Coastal Carolina who's more of a power runner, Taliaferro rushed for 86 yards on 23 carries by the middle of the fourth quarter. An undrafted free agent from Michigan who could be in line for a practice-squad job, Toussaint was even more productive with 103 yards on 16 carries.

The Ravens played new cornerback Derek Cox in the second half after the former San Diego Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars starter signed a veteran minimum contract on Wednesday. After undergoing a crash course in the defensive playbook, Cox didn't stand out positively or negatively and registered one tackle.

Cox was cut by the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week. He struggled last season with the Chargers after being signed to a four-year, $20 million contract and was benched three times by San Diego and was ultimately replaced for good by Richard Marshall.

(c)2014 The Baltimore Sun

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Distributed by MCT Information Services


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