OWINGS MILLS – As the Baltimore Ravens auditioned wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth last winter, they tested his speed.
Running pass patterns and time trials in the Ravens’ indoor training facility, Stallworth hadn’t played football in a year while serving a year-long NFL suspension. Although the surface isn’t regarded as a fast track, Stallworth turned in a scorching time of 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Even after breaking the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during the preseason, Stallworth remains one of the fastest players on the team. That speed was on full display during the Ravens’ 26-21 loss Thursday night against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
In his most extended playing time since suffering the injury against the New York Giants in August, the 6-foot, 204-pound wide receiver generated a pair of first downs on reverses as he gained 34 yards on two carries.
Now, the Carolina Panthers and other teams will be accounting for Stallworth as a threat to carry the ball as well as a dangerous downfield option.
“Yeah, I’m sure Carolina will be all over that,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “When Donte’ is in the game, they’ll be looking for that. It was a huge spark. It shows you those plays work a lot better when a fast guy is running them, and he showed his speed on that.”
Heading into Stallworth’s third game since returning from the broken foot, the Ravens are expected to begin expanding his role.
Stallworth has a strong track record against the Panthers in eight career games with 27 career receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns.
His yardage, scores, 21 first downs and seven receptions for 25 yards or more are all career-bests. In his last two games against Carolina, Stallworth topped the 100-yard mark each time and scored a touchdown.
And Stallworth, who has yet to catch a pass this season, has maintained his speed.
“I wouldn’t say as fast as ever, but just fast enough,” Stallworth said earlier this season. “I still feel like I have a lot of good speed left.”
RAVENS-BUCCANEERS GAME FLEXED: Under the NFL flex scheduling system, the Ravens’ Nov. 28 home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been shifted to a 4:15 p.m. kickoff after originally being scheduled for 1 p.m.
The game will air on FOX.
The Ravens haven’t had a game shifted under the flex scheduling format since a Dec. 28, 2008 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Last year, the Ravens’ home game against the Chicago Bears was moved to 4:15 p.m. due to snow.
The NFL also shifted the Philadelphia Eagles’ game against the Chicago Bears to 4:15 p.m.
The San Diego Chargers-Indianapolis Colts game on Sunday night hasn’t been changed.
“Flexible scheduling is designed to offer quality matchups in all NFL Sunday time slots in those weeks and to give teams a chance to play their way onto prime time and into the 4:15 p.m. ET time slot on CBS and FOX,” the league announced. “For each of the flexible scheduling weeks with the exception of Week 17, the NFL will announce the start times of games on Sundays no later than 12 days before that weekend. To ensure a Sunday night game and doubleheader games with playoff implications in Week 17, the flexible scheduling decision for that Sunday might be made on six days notice.”
SUGGS ON A ROLL: Three-time Pro Bowl outside linebacker Terrell Suggs now leads the Ravens with 6 ½ sacks after sacking Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice last week.
Suggs hadn’t recorded two sacks in a game since a Sept. 21, 2008 game against the Cleveland Browns.
“I think Terrell’s been bringing it pretty regularly, and he had a little more success and got a sack or whatever he got in the game,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t think there’s any question that Terrell’s going to be a force as a pass rusher in the second half of the season. We all want to make sure that happens, but he’s very determined to make sure that happens.”
STUFFING THE RUN: The Ravens limited Falcons star running back Michael “The Burner” Turner to 39 yards on 17 carries, marking a season-low for him.
The Ravens struggled earlier this season against Browns runner Peyton Hillis, another big, bruising power back.
The Ravens now rank eighth against the run after entering the game an uncharacteristic 13th overall.
“That was something we thought we had to do, stop the run,” Harbaugh said. “If you control the run against those guys, normally you’ll win. We weren’t able to do that at the end of the game, but the run defense was good. It was a big plus for us.”
QUICK HITS: After punt returner Lardarius Webb lost a fumble against Atlanta, it’s become an increased point of emphasis to protect the football. Harbaugh indicated that Webb will remain the Ravens’ primary punt returner, though, “You’ve got to carry it high and tight,” Harbaugh said during his weekly WBAL radio program Tuesday night. “You can’t let the ball get slapped out. That’s got to be the No. 1 priority. You’ve got the football team, the fans, everybody in your arms when you’re carrying the football. That’s what wins game. I know he takes that very seriously. You don’t want to become known as the fumbler. They’ll be tackling the ball with Lardarius now every single time. You’ll either be a fumbler in this league or you’re not. I don’t think he’s going to do that because he cares and it matters to him, but it’s going to be a point of emphasis.” … Harbaugh praised cornerback Josh Wilson, who was beaten for the game-winning touchdown when he got shoved to the ground by Falcons wide receiver Roddy White. It was Wilson’s first start of the season as he replaced Fabian Washington. “There were a couple of plays where he got pushed away,” he said. “I thought Josh played well overall.” … The Ravens have allowed quarterback Joe Flacco to be sacked 16 times, ranking 10th in the NFL for fewest sacks allowed. Against the Falcons, though, Baltimore struggled against defensive end John Abraham. “It’s something we need to work on,” Harbaugh said. “There’s times when the pocket gets collapsed around him or we get beat inside or we get pushed back into his lap. I think we need to protect Joe better than we did in the Atlanta game. I think it’s something we need to focus on and do better.” … Harbaugh said the Ravens won’t overlook the 1-8 Panthers. In the Harbaugh era, the Ravens have only lost once to a team with a losing record at the time of the matchup. “We have our work cut out for us,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough football game down there, and that’s what we’re preparing for. I know you guys say, ‘Well, coach has to say that.’ Well, yeah, but we say it because we believe it, because it’s going to be a big challenge.”