BALTIMORE — Joe Flacco zipped a spiral slightly behind Anquan Boldin as the wide receiver cut inside on a slant pattern and darted for position ahead of cornerback Courtney Brown.
And Boldin still managed to haul in the throw for a touchdown on fourth down for the star wide receiver’s first scoring connection with Flacco since joining the Baltimore Ravens via an offseason trade.
It was that kind of night for Flacco and the Ravens’ revamped offense, displaying upgraded chemistry and timing as they manufactured a crisp 24-10 victory Saturday night over the New York Giants. The no-huddle offense was a hit, wearing out the Giants.
"We’re just starting to get comfortable with one another," Boldin said. "For us, we considered the half a real game and we tried to pick it up a little bit and get in sync because this is truly the first dress rehearsal that we’ll get before the regular season."
After stumbling through the first two preseason games, the Ravens’ starting offense operated like a unit in a hurry for the regular season to begin. The enthusiasm was dimmed somewhat by the loss of wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth to a broken foot that will require surgery and sideline him for at least two months.
Running the no-huddle offense with three and four wide receiver sets, Flacco was extremely sharp as he completed 21 of 34 passes for 229 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for an 89.0 passer rating.
"It was a lot of fun," Flacco said. "I like to play and come out and just throw the ball, throw the ball and throw the ball some more. I had a great time. We were really clicking, hitting on all cylinders. It felt really good to throw the ball around and see guys making plays. ..
"We just wanted to get a fast tempo going. I think it tired the defense out. Their defensive line was getting tired, and our offensive line definitely saw that. We got in a groove and we were able to march the ball down the field."
Flacco spread the football around, utilizing all of his targets as he hit tight end Todd Heap six times for 69 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens (3-0) won their seventh consecutive preseason game.
The performance undoubtedly eased concerns about the offense, which hadn’t clicked halfway through the preseason.
"Our tempo with the no-huddle was good, and our ball protection was better," offensive coordinator Cam Cameron said. "We stressed both this week. The no-huddle is a big part of what we are and what we do. We’ll continue with it throughout the season."
On the touchdown, Boldin and Flacco demonstrated the rapport they’re building.
"I ran a nine route, and the guy was pressing," said Boldin, who caught four passes for 52 yards. "Joe and I looked at one another, and we both felt that if I could beat him right away, Joe would be able to get the ball to me. The safety went the other way. We had the press coverage, and Joe hit me perfectly."
By halftime, the Ravens had generated 17 first downs to the Giants’ five.
The Ravens piled up 243 net yards in the first half to the Giants’ 110 yards.
Flacco ran for two first downs and also hit Boldin for a 22-yard strike on the Ravens’ first scoring drive capped by a 25-yard Billy Cundiff field goal.
"We were sharp in the no-huddle, and we ran it on a good tempo without penalties," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "There are a lot of moving parts when you run it, and we were crisp with it, including with our motion and sets."
During the Ravens’ two touchdown drives, Flacco completed all but one of his seven passes each time.
Wide receiver Mark Clayton suffered a mild concussion when he was struck by Giants safety Antrel Rolle on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit with the 15-yard personal foul granting the Ravens a first down at Giants’ 13-yard line. Clayton got up quickly, but didn’t return after being examined by team doctors.
On the ensuing play, Heap pulled down a Flacco lob over the middle for the touchdown to stake the Ravens to a 17-0 lead. Rolle was hanging on Heap’s back during the coverage, but the illegal contact infraction was declined.
"It was just a play where Joe had faith in me to go get the ball," Heap said. "I’m definitely glad to see it work. It’s a play where you have to body the guy up and make a play."
The Ravens scored on three of their five possessions by halftime.
They were in position for a 41-yard field goal with Shayne Graham on the field when wide receiver Derrick Mason, who caught five passes for 35 yards, was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for arguing with officials.
The Ravens decided to punt rather than go for it.
"It was a good showing, but I think the reality is that we left some points out there," Flacco said. "We probably could’ve put some more points up. As we progress, we’ll get all of those and put the team away more convincingly."
Reserve safety Haruki Nakamura, who ended last season on injured reserve with a broken ankle and torn ligaments, intercepted Eli Manning on a pass intended for Steve Smith. Following an instant-replay review, the turnover was upheld.
On the Ravens’ final drive of the first half, Flacco was intercepted on a tipped pass by Corey Webster that was meant to go to Boldin.
Three plays later, the Giants broke the shutout with a 42-yard Lawrence Tynes field goal.
"I was disappointed with the way we handled the end of the first half," Harbaugh said. "We can’t have that."
The Ravens’ offense didn’t get off to a good start as Flacco was sacked by Justin Tuck on the second offensive play of the game on a stunt where the defensive end looped inside between center Matt Birk and left offensive guard Ben Grubbs.
One drive later, Flacco was sacked by Rocky Bernard when Flacco moved up in the pocket to try to avoid some heat coming from the outside.
With Jared Gaither and Oniel Cousins sidelined with a strained back and a concussion, respectively, right offensive tackle Tony Moll held up for the most part in pass protection.
At one point, Moll left the game with a minor heel injury and the Ravens plugged in Chris Chester at right guard to replace Marshal Yanda with Yanda kicking out to right tackle.
Flacco left the game in the third quarter along with most of the other starters.
Backup Marc Bulger completed three of four passes for 42 yards before giving way to Troy Smith.
In the fourth quarter, Smith connected with reserve wide receiver Marcus Smith over the middle for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Defensively, the Ravens continued their bend-but-don’t-break mold.
The Giants’ second drive was reminiscent of the Ravens’ embarrassing breakdowns against New York in a regular-season debacle two years ago.
Just like that game, the Giants’ powerful backs ran roughshod over Baltimore.
Strong safety Dawan Landry was rudely stiff-armed to the ground by Ahmad Bradshaw.
"The Giants ran on us early, and we have to tackle better," Harbaugh said. "They do have very good backs and one of the best lines. They deserve some credit, too."
And cornerback Fabian Washington, free safety Tom Zbikowski and middle linebacker Ray Lewis all had their issues tackling Brandon Jacobs and Bradshaw.
Jacobs ripped off a 29-yard run down to the Ravens’ 24-yard-line.
"We need to tackle better, wrap up better, keep the edge better and run to the ball better," Ravens defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said. "We do love the way our guys got after them in the first half. A Ravens defense plays hard, and the guys did that."
Ultimately, though, the drive stalled as Bradshaw was stuffed three times in a row when the Giants had the bright idea of running off right guard three plays in a row.
Each time Bradshaw was stuffed for no gain.
New York turned it back over to Baltimore on downs when Bradshaw was halted by Lewis and Kelly Gregg on 4th-and-1 at the Ravens’ 15-yard line.
The Giants capped their scoring with a one-yard Rhett Bomar touchdown pass to Victor Cruz late in the fourth quarter.
"We came after them, and I think it was a very physical first half for us defensively," Lewis said. "We went in and got a couple of three-and-outs early and got them on the back of their heels. We pinned our ears back from that point on and just let loose."