BALTIMORE (AP) — The Baltimore Ravens probably wouldn’t mind if the regular season began a week from Sunday.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, on the other hand, need all the time they can get before playing games that really count.
Joe Flacco passed for 266 yards and two touchdowns, and Baltimore received a strong performance from its defense in a 48-17 rout Thursday night.
Coming off a 27-12 defeat against the Detroit Lions, the Ravens were focused on scoring touchdowns instead of field goals and rectifying a defensive unit that was scorched for 507 yards.
They accomplished both goals with a solid showing against the previously unbeaten Jaguars.
“We’re putting it all together now,” Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb said.
Same with the offense. Flacco completed 27 of 36 passes before leaving early in the third quarter. Most important, he put two touchdowns on the board instead of settling for field goals.
“If this was a regular-season game, we would have come out (feeling) pretty good about it,” he said.
The Jaguars had very few feel-good moments in a humbling defeat that came on the heels of wins over the New York Giants and New Orleans.
“How we respond from this will be the test of this football team,” coach Mike Mularkey said. “It’s like being punched in the mouth. In all three phases, we just didn’t give ourselves a chance to compete the way we did in the first two games.”
Baltimore amassed 571 yards in total offense and had five drives of at least 80 yards. The 48 points were the most ever scored by the Ravens in a preseason game.
With support from a defense that kept Jacksonville quarterback Blaine Gabbert in check, the Ravens (No. 5 in the AP Pro32) built a 20-3 lead before Flacco took a seat.
Gabbert went 11 for 21 for 117 yards over three quarters, and Rashad Jennings, starting in place of holdout Maurice Jones-Drew, gained 57 yards on 13 carries.
“I’m not pleased at all in my game tonight. I left a lot of yards out on the football field,” Jennings said.
Jennings wasn’t the only Jacksonville player to express disappointment after the blowout.
“Maybe that is what we needed, to have that bad a feeling, even in a preseason game,” Mularkey said. “This is why we play exhibition games. This will be a true test of this team to see how we bounce back from this. I am anxious to see how this team responds after getting pounded like we did. In all three phases, we didn’t do the things we needed to do.”
Jacksonville cornerback Rashean Mathis played for the first time this summer following knee surgery, but Jaguars cornerback Aaron Ross was forced from the game with an ankle injury and tight end Zach Miller left in the second quarter with an injured leg.
Fortunately, the Jaguars still have one preseason game left before the opener against Minnesota.
“You can’t go into the season feeling the way we do now,” Gabbert said. “This one leaves a nasty, nasty taste in your mouth. You never want to lose a game like this, even if it isn’t the regular season.”
Against the Giants and Saints, Gabbert drove the Jaguars (2-1) to a touchdown on their opening possession. In this one, Jacksonville started on its own 5 after a Ravens punt and made only one first down — on a 16-yard completion to first-round draft pick Justin Blackmon — before kicking the ball away.
Ray Rice began the subsequent drive with a 28-yard run, but the march stalled inside the 10 before rookie Justin Tucker kicked a 33-yard field goal. It was an unfulfilling score for the Ravens (2-1), who were intent upon improving their inability to get touchdowns when inside the 20.
That shortcoming would be resolved in Baltimore’s third drive. Flacco went 8 for 9 for 87 yards and made it 10-0 with a touchdown throw to Anquan Boldin.
The march started with a 16-yard pass to Smith, who came up limping but returned later in the series and caught a key third-down pass. Smith missed last week’s game with a sprained ankle.
Following another Jacksonville punt, Flacco went 5 for 5 on a 30-yard drive that ended with a 53-yard field goal by Tucker. In his effort to take the job from incumbent Billy Cundiff, Tucker has made all five of his field goal tries this preseason, including two from beyond 50 yards.
Gabbert finally got the Jaguars rolling late in the half, directing a 12-play, 73-yard march that produced a field goal with 56 seconds remaining.
On their first possession of the second half, the Ravens moved 80 yards to take a 20-3 lead. Flacco went 7 for 9 for 70 yards, completing passes of 7, 32 and 8 yards to Smith before concluding his night with a TD toss to Leach.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)