With the Patriots’ Tom Brady watching comfortably on the sideline, Boller was clearly the top quarterback on the field Thursday night, finishing 11-of-15 (including two dropped passes) for 102 yards.
He added one interception and an ugly lost fumble, but head coach John Harbaugh doesn’t count those two mistakes as reason enough for giving the nod to Smith.
The same goes for Smith. A few bad decisions next week won’t negate his chances to start the year Sept. 7 against the Cincinnati Bengals.
And, rookie Joe Flacco’s name is still very much in the hat. Flacco will likely get a start in at least one of the final two warm-up contests.
Harbaugh maintains that the quarterback competition is far from over and will continue to play out over the course of the preseason.
“What they do in the game is the biggest indicator,” said Harbaugh. “That’s not to say that practices are not important. I couldn’t give you percentages and say 40 percent practices and 60 percent games or anything like that.
“Some of it is going to be from the gut on the part of the coaches, as well. In the end, we just have to go with the guy that we feel is going to give us the best chance to win the next game. If that’s a gut decision, then that’s what it is.”
Boller helped build a 10-0 lead until he failed to notice linebacker Shawn Crable jumping in front of tight end Adam Bergen for an interception. That led to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 36 yards and Smith’s first action of the year.
Smith went on to lead two scoring drives en route to a 5-of-12, 74-yard outing. His biggest play was a pinpoint 30-yard pass to Darnerian McCants over the middle. Smith’s mobility was also on display. Playing behind a makeshift second-string offensive line, the former Heisman Trophy-winner had to buy a lot of time with his legs.
“I thought Troy was poised,” Harbaugh said. “He threw some NFL balls in there. That ball across the middle in the fourth quarter was a heck of a throw. He scrambled around and did a nice job.”
Smith is looking forward to playing behind the starting unit against an aggressive Minnesota Vikings pass rush.
“That’s vital,” Smith said. “It’s very, very important for my development as a quarterback of this team. Getting the support from guys like Kyle and Joe is important, and it’s helping all of us get better.”
Flacco had somewhat of a rude awakening to the NFL. As the pocket consisitently collapsed around him, Flacco was sacked twice, fumbled and did not complete one of his three attempts.
Still, he knew he was getting thrown into the fire. According to the self-deprecating rookie, it was just a blessing to get his initial professional action out of the way.
“Just the fact that you are going to play against NFL players, that was just cool,” said the first-round draft pick. “I think that is just a cool thing to me. You have to realize that you are one of them now, and that you belong here.”