The Baltimore Ravens are playing defense with the kind of swagger usually associated with a first-place team.
Baltimore chased quarterback Matt Ryan all over the field, blanked the Atlanta Falcons over the first 52 minutes, and moved into the top spot in the AFC North with a 29-7 victory on Sunday.
Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee each had two sacks for the Ravens, who have won two straight by a combined 77-24 score.
"We're dangerous and we're real serious," McPhee said of Baltimore's defense. "We're coming out playing with an attitude."
Baltimore (5-2) is 4-1 since losing the opener at home to Cincinnati, the defending division champion. The Ravens get a chance to settle the score this Sunday in the rematch.
"They're a very, very good football team," Baltimore coach John Harbaugh said of the Bengals. "We know each other inside and out, and we're looking forward to the opportunity."
The Falcons (2-5), who next face Detroit on Sunday in London, can only hope a change in countries will bring about a shift in their fortune. Atlanta has lost four in a row, scoring fewer points each week of the skid.
"We have to play more consistent on offense," said wide receiver Roddy White, who scored the Falcons' lone touchdown with 7:12 remaining. "We're not playing efficient football and it's costing us right now."
One positive: White's touchdown was Atlanta's first score in the fourth quarter of its last five games. The Falcons have been outscored 58-7 over the final 15 minutes during that span.
Some things to know about the Falcons and Ravens after Sunday's game:
NO HARD FEELINGS: Ex-Ravens cornerback Josh Wilson was jawing at his old mates when Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco threw a 39-yard TD pass to Torrey Smith on fourth-and-9 with 1:46 left in the game.
Wilson might have thought the Ravens were rubbing it in, but Falcons coach Mike Smith, a former assistant in Baltimore, didn't concur.
"Their defense tried to stop us, and our defense tried to stop them," Smith said. "They called a play, we didn't stop them and that's the end of it."
The Ravens lost long snapper Morgan Cox earlier in the fourth quarter with a torn ACL, so trying a field goal would have been risky. Besides, Harbaugh said, "The game was far from sealed at that point."
GOIN' SOUTH: The worst division in the NFL? Consider the NFC South, where no team is above .500. Amazingly, the Falcons are within striking distance of the division-leading Carolina Panthers (3-3-1).
DANIELS SHINES: With Dennis Pitta lost for the season with a hip injury, the Ravens have turned to veteran Owen Daniels for production from the tight end position.
Daniels had a team-high six catches for 58 yards and a touchdown.
"Joe was able to find me, and we were able to make some plays and keep drives alive," Daniels said. "That's what I try to do when I'm out there."
Daniels ranks second on the Ravens with 27 catches and has scored three TDs.
"Obviously, my role has increased a little bit with Dennis being injured," he said. "I'm just trying to do what I can do to help the team."
TOUCHY SUBJECT: Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was targeted eight times and made only five catches for 56 yards.
He wants to be a bigger part of the offensive scheme, but realizes it's tough for Ryan to find him when he's under pressure in the pocket.
"Yes, I'm getting enough touches," Jones said. "We're just taking what the defense gives us."
Problem is, the Falcons aren't making the most of it.
"There's nothing really stopping us but us," Jones said. "We haven't been executing."
BLANK SLATE: The Ravens were poised to record their first shutout since 2009 before Ryan drove the Falcons 90 yards in 10 plays during the fourth quarter.
That enabled Atlanta to avoid its first shutout loss since 2004, but that was small consolation for the visitors.
"We need to prepare better, practice better and play better," Ryan said. "We know what to do, but we haven't done it."
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