Ravens backups provide 27-23 win after Falcons control play with starters on field
BALTIMORE – If the goal in preseason games was solely to win, the Baltimore Ravens would have been delighted.
The main objective is to get ready for the regular season, and that's why the Atlanta Falcons almost certainly derived far more satisfaction from Thursday night's preseason game — even though the Ravens pulled out a 27-23 victory.
Matt Ryan threw for 97 yards and a touchdown in four series, and the Falcons bottled up Baltimore's starting offense in the first half before the Ravens' backups rallied with a 20-point fourth quarter.
Atlanta's starters bounced back nicely from an opening 34-10 loss to Cincinnati one week earlier. Under Ryan's direction, the Falcons pierced Baltimore (2-0) for 11 first downs in 16½ minutes and built a 20-7 lead at halftime.
It was 23-7 before Baltimore scored 20 fourth-quarter points, including a 78-yard punt return by Asa Jackson with 6:18 remaining.
Ryan went 8 for 15 and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Steven Jackson had 42 yards rushing on eight carries against a unit that has seven new starters on defense.
"That was not us," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said at halftime. "That's not how we play. Our fundamentals were not what they should be."
Baltimore's offense wasn't much better. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played the first half, completing 7 of 9 passes 118 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.
But over the first 30 minutes, Baltimore made only three first downs and gained 13 yards rushing on 10 carries. Ray Rice got 10 yards on eight attempts, with 8 of those yards coming on one carry.
"That first half was about as poorly as we can play," sixth-year coach John Harbaugh said. "I can't remember us playing worse since we came here."
Atlanta had its way with Baltimore's defense, even though receiver Roddy White hurt his ankle in the first quarter and did not return.
After going three and out on the opening series, Flacco put the Ravens up 7-3 with a touchdown pass to Smith, who cut across the middle of the field from the right side and outran Asante Samuel to the end zone.
Atlanta bounced right back, moving 80 yards in seven plays to take a 10-7 lead. Julio Jones burned cornerback Jimmy Smith for three catches totaling 55 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown play.
In the first quarter, the Falcons ran 21 plays compared to seven for Baltimore and built a 10-1 advantage in first downs.
"We were just sloppy. We never got into a rhythm," Flacco said. "The one drive we did score on, it was just one play."
A field goal by Jeremy Shelley and a 2-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers made it 20-7.
Last season, the Ravens held opponents under 20 points in nine games (including two in the playoffs). In their preseason opener, they hammered Tampa Bay 44-16.
This game was decidedly different.
"This was good for us. A little humble pie," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We had a lot of success last week, with everything pretty much going our way. Atlanta is a very good team, and you can't make the mistakes we did. It's that simple."
Falcons backup quarterback Dominique Davis went 8 for 10 for 98 yards.
Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez was scratched because he's participating in only portions of training camp as part of his agreement to postpone his retirement.
Baltimore played without tight end Dallas Clark, who signed a one-year contract on Tuesday. Visanthe Shiancoe, another newcomer at tight end, did not have a catch.