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Harbaugh on Ryan Mallett: He played winning football

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To the average preseason spectator, Ryan Mallett appeared to struggle leading the Baltimore Ravens' offense Thursday night.

Coach John Harbaugh begs to differ.

"I thought he played winning football. He played good football, just what we asked him to do," Harbaugh said after the 23-3 victory over the Washington Redskins, via the team's official transcript.

Mallett finished with 9-of-18 passing for 58 yards and a 57.2 passer rating. His first three passes were a microcosm of his career: He lined a bullet through the hands of running back Terrance West, who was standing about two yards away. He then underthrew receiver Michael Campanaro down the field on third-and-2. On the next drive, his throw on third-and-7 landed between two receivers, so it was either an overthrow or underthrow, depending on your bend.

We suspect Harbaugh's assessment of Mallett came from a desire not to stoke flames about bringing in Colin Kaepernick to be the backup in case Joe Flacco's back injury flares up again -- flames, we should note, that Harbaugh started.

Can you ever remember a coach citing winning a meaningless preseason game as the reason for a positive quarterback assessment? Me neither. Usually, it's the inverse.

Yes, the Ravens scored 13 points in the first half under Mallett's watch, but let's not toss him a QB-Winz bone. The touchdown came on the back of West's rushing and penalties by Washington. The two field goals came after a flurry of Mallett incompletions stalled drives near the end of the half.

"We started off a little slow, got it going a little bit, got the run game going, got the pass going," Mallett said. "We need [to be] more consistent. It's the first preseason game, you've got a lot of new guys out there, but it's to be expected, so now it's going back to work Saturday and getting ready for Miami next week."

It's fair to note Mallett didn't have a full complement of receivers with Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin and Breshad Perriman sitting. Top tight end Benjamin Watson also was on the sideline. Running back Danny Woodhead didn't play. And three offensive linemen (Marshal Yanda, Alex Lewis and Austin Howard) had the night off.

Yet, with plenty of time to throw, Mallett's inconsistencies in the pocket show he hasn't grown from the struggles that sunk his career in previous stops. Harbaugh better hope Flacco's back gets healthy and stays that way for the entire season, or his offense is going to struggle mightily with Mallett at the helm.

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