The Atlanta Falcons remain winless in the preseason, yet they are pleased with their progress as they move toward the start of the regular season.
The Baltimore Ravens are unbeaten in the preseason, yet they derived very little satisfaction from their 27-23 victory over the Falcons on Thursday night.
It was 23-7 before Baltimore came back against Atlanta's subs. After Tyrod Taylor threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Tandon Doss to make it 23-20 with 7:52 left, Asa Jackson scored on a 78-yard punt return with 6:18 remaining.
The Ravens (2-0) won't focus on that during the days ahead. They'll work on improving a defense that was pierced by Matt Ryan and Steven Jackson, and righting an offense that produced only three first downs before halftime.
What did the Falcons and Ravens learn?
1. SEE STEVEN RUN: Steven Jackson ran for 42 yards on eight carries after being limited to eight yards on five carries one week earlier in a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati.
"I thought Steven played really well. Running the football, he was really effective," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said.
Jackson signed as a free agent with the Falcons after a nine-year run with St. Louis, and appears to be on solid footing with Atlanta.
Jackson said, "Having success tonight is great for our confidence. We've been working on the chemistry between the running back and the offensive line, and we feel the hard work showed tonight."
2. OFFENSE NEEDS WORK: Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played the first half and led the offense to one touchdown, a 77-yard pass to Torrey Smith.
Other than that, Baltimore gained 54 yards on 18 plays before halftime.
"We were sloppy, obviously," Flacco said. "We were just unable to get into a rhythm. You love the one-play touchdown drives, but at the same time, it would have been nice to get a little bit of rhythm. ... Having said that, we're not going to overreact to something like this and get all crazy. We'll get through this."
3. WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: Ravens coach John Harbaugh stressed that he was delighted with the victory. Then he pointed out all the reasons why he was disappointed with the way the Ravens performed.
"We didn't run the ball well. That was a negative," he said. "We didn't stop the run. That's something that has to happen. I'm really disappointed, because I felt like we'd come out, based on the way we've been practicing, and play a lot better."
At halftime, the sixth-year coach expressed dismay with the way Baltimore dug itself into a 20-7 hole.
"That first half was about as poorly as we can play," Harbaugh said. "I can't remember us playing worse since we came here."
4. IT'S GOOD TO BE BACK: Atlanta's starting offense welcomed back wide receiver Julio Jones, and Ryan was glad to see him — if only for a few possessions. The tandem connected three times, landing Jones a team-high 55 yards receiving and a score during a first-quarter drive.
"Julio's a great player, one of the best in the league," Ryan said. "When he's on the field, we're a better football team."
Jones missed the Cincinnati game while recovering from a hamstring injury suffered during training camp.
"It was good to have Julio back," coach Mike Smith said. "We held him out that first game for precautionary reasons, and we were able to get him some limited action tonight."
Jones was removed from the game following the touchdown.
5. MANY UNHAPPY RETURNS: Smith was less than pleased with his backup special teams unit after the Falcons allowed a punt return touchdown for a second straight week.
Against Cincinnati, Dane Sanzenbacher went 71 yards. In this one, Asa Jackson sprinted through the Falcons for the winning score.
"This is the second week in a row that we've had a punt returned for a touchdown. That's something we need to address and we definitely will," Smith said.
For rookies hoping to make an impression on the coaching staff, they may have gotten off on the wrong foot.
"Those are young guys that are going through a steep learning curve to learn how we do it here at the Atlanta Falcons," Smith said.
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