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Ravens vs. Buccaneers 2013: Defending Super Bowl champs off to good start

A big day from the Ravens' backup quarterback and the strong play of their revamped defense gave Baltimore fans plenty to get excited about.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens didn't miss a beat in their 2013 preseason opener, steamrolling the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 44-16, on Thursday night. There was plenty for Ravens fans to get excited about during the blowout, most notably the play of backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor and the strong performance of the team's new-look defense.

Taylor was the star of the game, tossing for 154 yards and a pair of touchdowns while going 13-of-23. While starter Joe Flacco has proved to be one of the most durable quarterbacks in the league -- he hasn't missed a game in five seasons -- having a dependable backup provides an invaluable insurance policy. If Taylor's play on Thursday was any indication, the Ravens now possess a solid backup plan.

Jason Butt of Baltimore Beat Down was particularly impressed with the third-year QB's mobility, writing "Taylor was poised in the pocket when protection allowed it. When plays broke down, he scrambled out to either run or buy time to throw it downfield." Taylor scrambled for 27 yards on five carries.

After losing legendary defenders Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, the Baltimore defense got off to a good start in its new era. While the team certainly won't be able to replace the talent and leadership it lost in those two players, several guys seemed to step up on Friday. Three Ravens intercepted passes during the game, with cornerback Moe Lee even forcing a Reed-esque lateral after his pick.

It seems the team may have found a replacement for Lewis in Daryl Smith, who Butt writes, "all but cemented himself as the starting Mike linebacker. He was a force early, applying pressure on blitzes, sniffing out screens and tallying five tackles (one for loss)."

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