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Falcons vs. Ravens Game Recap


Head Coach John Harbaugh didn't mince words after watching his starters face the Atlanta Falcons for one half of preseason football.

"That's about as bad as we can play," Harbaugh said as he headed for the tunnel. "That's the worst half of football, I don't think I can say ever, but I can't think of one."

After a blowout win in their first preseason game in Tampa Bay, the Ravens first-team offense and first-team defense were both outplayed Thursday night at M&T Bank Stadium.

The second- and third-teamers outperformed the starters for a second-straight week, and the Ravens rallied to pull off a 27-23 victory in their first game back home as reigning Super Bowl champions.

That left the team feeling better by the end of the night, but the start of it was still not what they wanted to see as the regular season nears.

"This was good for us – a little humble pie," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said at halftime.

Harbaugh pointed to the team's fundamentals as the starters' problem. He felt they were too excited to play in front of their home fans.

As Harbaugh said, the Ravens committed too many penalties (four in the first quarter alone), didn't run well, didn't block well or stop the run. The last of which very much surprised the head coach because the front line has been practicing well.

"The good news is, those are things you can correct overnight," Harbaugh said. "Doesn't take much to correct those things. But it has to get done if we're going to be the team that we hope to be."

After an "OK" performance in its preseason opener, according to quarterback Joe Flacco, the offense went backwards in its encore.

It hit one home run, a 77-yard touchdown in which Torrey Smith dusted past the Falcons defense after catching a 5-yard simple slant. Other than that, it picked up just two more first downs and set Atlanta up for an easy score.  

Flacco was errant on a couple of early passes, and another intended for wide receiver Jacoby Jones was deflected into the air and intercepted. The Falcons scored on a 1-yard touchdown on the very next play. Flacco finished 7-for-9 for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

The offensive line gave up quick penetration on a few instances, leading to an average of just 1.6 yards per carry for running back Ray Rice. Rice's night ended with him coming off the field yelling at somebody on the sidelines after being dropped for a 4-yard loss.

"We were just sloppy. We never got into a rhythm," Flacco said. "We've just got to go back to practice, continue to improve, and when we come out here we've got to play better."

The first-team defense wasn't much better.

After forcing a quick punt on Atlanta's first series, the Ravens ran into trouble with penalties that allowed the Falcons to march to a field goal.

Then Atlanta Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones started having his way. With cornerback Jimmy Smith in coverage, Jones caught three balls for 55 yards on one drive, including an 8-yard touchdown. Smith, who is competing for a starting spot, gave up another 17-yard catch to backup receiver Kevin Cone.

The Falcons, who put their second-team offense in after a little more than a quarter of action, piled up 255 yards of total offense in the first half. They averaged 3.8 yards per run against what had looked like a very staunch front line. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan went 8-for-15 for 97 yards and a touchdown.

The defense did make a few plays. Pass rusher Elvis Dumervil harassed Ryan, hitting him a couple of times. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith was active once again. Defensive tackle Arthur Jones and rookies Arthur Brown and Matt Elam all had tackles for loss.

But Atlanta still took a 20-7 lead into halftime, and it would have likely been more had an instant replay not gone in the Ravens' favor and given them a fumble recovery in the final seconds just outside their goal line.

"That was not us," Defensive Coordinator Dean Pees said. "That's not how we play. Our fundamentals were not what they should be."

Harbaugh was adamant at halftime that the Ravens wanted to come back and win the game. Even though it's the preseason, the Ravens compete.

The second-teamers got off to a slow start, but they eventually clawed their way back, outscoring the Falcons 20-3 in the second half.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor got the unit jumpstarted with his legs. Then, following an interception, he found rookie wide receiver Aaron Mellette for a 40-yard touchdown. The seventh-round pick now has two touchdowns in his first two NFL games.

Taylor then took the team back down the field and connected with receiver Tandon Doss on a 5-yard touchdown pass. It's Doss' first catch of the preseason.

Second-year cornerback Asa Jackson scored what would be the game-winner with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown. Jackson faces an eight-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance enhancing drug policy (because of Adderall), but has been a playmaker in the preseason.

The Ravens defense got a stop on fourth down as the Falcons were driving to potentially win the game in the last two minutes and hung on one final time on a last-second pass to the end zone.

With that, Baltimore moved to 2-0 in the preseason. But as Harbaugh said, they still have "work to do."

"When you play, you try to win. That's why they keep score. So I'm happy about that," Harbaugh said. "I told the team in there, 'The ones give the twos and the threes a slap on the back and a hand because our guys, they came out and found a way to win the game."

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