Game Recap: Ravens 29, Falcons 7


The Ravens offense lit it up in Tampa Bay a week ago.

On Sunday, it was the defense who flexed its muscles.

Baltimore's defense handcuffed the Falcons' third-ranked offense, leading the way for a 29-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

With back-to-back routs, the Ravens are now 5-2 and moved into first place in the AFC North since the Bengals (3-2-1) lost in Indianapolis.

The Falcons entered the game averaging 410 yards per game. They put up just 254 on Sunday, including a paltry 61 in the first half.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was held to just 223 passing yards despite completing 28 passes. Wide receiver Julio Jones, who entered the game third in receiving yards, posted just 56. The Falcons rushed for only 68 yards.

The Ravens defense entered the game ranked third in points allowed per game (16.2) and 17th in yards per game (361.2). They were tied for 19th with 10 team sacks.

The unit started to rear its head last week in Tampa Bay, notching a first-half shutout, five sacks and 15 quarterback hits. On Saturday night, Linebackers Coach Ted Monachino gave a speech to his unit about how they weren't playing up to their potential yet.

"I think today we came out and played very well," outside linebacker Pernell McPhee said. "I think we can play better than that. I think we're going to start shutting out teams."

Safety Will Hill, playing in his first game after a six-game suspension, blasted Ryan on the opening series. The hits just kept coming after that.

McPhee and Elvis Dumervil had two sacks each. Terrell Suggs notched one as well, which went for a safety. Cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Dominique Franks and safety Matt Elam each nearly had interceptions.

Almost every time the Falcons got into scoring range – which wasn't that often – the Ravens either pushed them out with a sack or got a turnover.

"I think we have just been building," Head Coach John Harbaugh said of the defense's improvement.

The defense set up another hot start after the Ravens scored 28 points in the first quarter in Tampa Bay last week. Baltimore's defense notched a three-and-out to open the game, and the offense started its first drive near midfield.

The offense didn't waste any time, thanks in large part to a 36-yard pass interference drawn by wide receiver Torrey Smith. It's Smith's seventh pass interference drawn, leading the NFL.

Quarterback Joe Flacco capped the drive with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Owen Daniels. It took just three minutes, 13 seconds for the Ravens to score their first touchdown, a little slower than their pace a week ago but still quite fast considering they didn't get the ball at kickoff.

The offense slowed down a bit after that, however.

The Ravens offense posted a three-and-out on their next drive, giving the Falcons good starting field position. The Falcons drove down the field, but Baltimore's league-best red-zone defense worked its magic yet again as McPhee sacked and stripped Ryan. Dumervil recovered.

Baltimore marched into Falcons territory and took a deep shot on the first play of the second quarter to Smith, but it was intercepted by cornerback Robert Alford in the end zone. The Ravens gained just 2 yards on their next drive.

Rookie left tackle James Hurst, starting his fourth straight game, struggled in pass protection, and was called for three holdings in the first half alone.

The offense had most of its success at the end of the first half. It put together a 10-play, 59-yard touchdown drive capped by a Bernard Pierce 1-yard touchdown run. Smith had the big play on the drive with a 20-yard catch and run on a crossing pattern.

Baltimore's defense produced another quick three-and-out, but had to go right back to work when punt returner Jacoby Jones muffed his second punt in the past three weeks, giving the Falcons possession at the Ravens 37-yard line.

The defense responded immediately again with Dumervil's first sack. In one of the few defensive blemishes of the day, cornerback Jimmy Smith then dropped a gift-wrapped interception. Lucky to avoid the turnover, the Falcons attempted a 57-yard field goal. It clanked off the crossbar, preserving the shutout.

The Ravens moved back down the field for a field goal to take a 17-0 lead into halftime.

"It's impressive to watch [the defense] and it's a lot of fun for us because we're just sitting over there waiting to get the ball back," Flacco said. "And the advantage for us is we get the ball back with good field position and can strike quickly."

Baltimore got another three points on the first drive of the second half, set up by a 49-yard catch and run by Steve Smith Sr. Kicker Justin Tucker drove a 38-yard kick through the uprights to follow.

Flacco threw his second interception of the day when he tried to float a pass into the end zone.

It was on the defense to finish out the game.

The Falcons moved into scoring range at the Ravens' 32-yard line on the next drive, but Dumervil sacked Ryan for a loss of 12 yards on fourth down.

The Ravens got another fourth-down stop in their territory in the fourth quarter when cornerback Lardarius Webb came up to make a good open-field tackle short of the markers.

"We have to give all the credit to the front seven," Smith said. "They were back there every single play. It made our job easy today."

The Falcons got their first points of the game 7:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. Ryan hit wide receiver Roddy White for a 4-yard strike. Elam got his hands on a possible interception on the drive, but it fell to the turf.

Holding a 13-point lead, the offense drained some of the clock, but couldn't get it all. The defense came back onto the field with just under four minutes and finished with some sizzle.

After Dumervil nearly sacked Ryan in the end zone, his running mate Suggs finished the job. Suggs stunted to come up the middle and leveled Ryan for a safety.

It's the eighth safety in Ravens history and first since 2008 (Jameel McClain). It's Suggs' first and he celebrated by heaving the football into the stands.

"It's on film now and everybody is seeing how our defense can kind of control games," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "And that's going to be the standard from now on."

The offense, held in check for much of the second half, got in one final knockout punch.

On fourth-and-9, Flacco lobbed a ball down the left sideline and Torrey Smith made the tough catch for a 39-yard score. Smith now has three touchdowns in the past two games. He finished with three receptions for a team-high 81 yards.

"We felt like we had to take a shot," Smith said. "They had been playing cover zero on every snap. Honestly, I wanted to do it on first down. We really had no choice but to throw the ball and finish with the ball in our hands instead of giving them a shot."

Flacco didn't have a five-touchdown day, but he finished 16-for-25 with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He took just one sack despite some intense early pressure. Running back Justin Forsett ran 23 times for 95 yards.

The first-place Ravens will now set their sights on the Bengals in what will be a huge game in the division race. And Baltimore goes in with the offensive and defensive units humming in back-to-back games.

Cincinnati beat the Ravens, 23-16, in Week 1, but Baltimore is playing at a much higher level now. In the last three weeks, the Bengals have two losses and a tie.

"We have to come back out there and prove ourselves," Flacco said. "They're a good football team and they're going to be hungry – and we're [playing] there [in Cincinnati]. So it's going to be a tough test. I can't wait for it."

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