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McGahee starts, but Falcons ease past Ravens

ATLANTA -- In a preseason finale nearly devoid of star power, Willis McGahee was a surprise starter for the Baltimore Ravens on Friday night.

Not even a $40 million running back could stir much excitement at the Georgia Dome.

McGahee was one of the few players with name recognition to play in a game decided by second-string kickers. Atlanta won 13-10 when Matt Prater, in just his second day with the Falcons, kicked two fourth-quarter field goals.

Ravens coach Brian Billick and Falcons coach Bobby Petrino planned to use their backup players almost exclusively. But Baltimore wanted to give McGahee extra snaps after bad weather suspended a loss at Washington last week.

Fans knew that quarterback Michael Vick was home in Virginia after pleading guilty to federal dogfighting charges earlier this week. Joey Harrington, who has replaced Vick as the starter, joined Warrick Dunn, Alge Crumpler, Keith Brooking, John Abraham, DeAngelo Hall and Lawyer Milloy on the sideline.

Ray Lewis, Steve McNair, Ed Reed, Todd Heap and Chris McAlister did the same for Baltimore.

Rhys Lloyd gave the Ravens a 10-7 lead in the third period with a 55-yard field goal. Third-string quarterback Troy Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner from Ohio State, following a 12-yard completion to Matt Willis, had moved the offense to the Atlanta 25 before three consecutive plays pushed the Ravens back 12 yards.

After Prater's second field goal covered 45 yards, Baltimore tight end Marcus Freeman lost a fumble at the Ravens 31. On Baltimore's final possession, a 14-yard sack of Smith and Chris Houston's interception ended the Ravens' chances.

McGahee ended a disappointing preseason in which he averaged just 2.6 yards on 18 carries. Against Atlanta, McGahee ran four times for 12 yards, but expectations will remain high for him entering the Sept. 10 opener at Cincinnati.

Still seeking a balanced attack to complement McNair's passing, Baltimore was just 25th in rushing last year, the lowest output in the franchise's first 11 seasons.

One day after losing Jamal Lewis in free agency, the Ravens acquired McGahee in a trade with Buffalo and signed him to a long-term contract that could be worth as much as $40.12 million.

The Ravens' passing attack continued to look healthy after McNair ended the preseason with a 92.6 passer rating and a 71.4 completion percentage.

McNair's backup, Kyle Boller, opened the scoring against the Falcons by connecting with Demetrius Williams for a 59-yard touchdown.

After faking an inside slant to fool rookie cornerback David Irons, Williams ran down the right sideline with enough room to catch Boller's long pass in stride near the 30 and score easily.

The Falcons responded on their next possession with a 10-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Chris Redman's 16-yard touchdown pass to Jerious Norwood.

Redman, who hasn't played in a game in the regular season since making two appearances for Baltimore in 2003, started in Harrington's place. He left the game after the first series of the third quarter.

Boller, a former teammate of Redman's, was 9-of-15 for 144 yards. Redman was 13-of-23 for 119 yards.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

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