Ravens' Top-Ranked Defense Grounds High-Flying Falcons


The NFL's top-ranked defense lives in Baltimore and it travels well.

Sparked by inside linebacker Patrick Onwuasor's strip sack in the fourth quarter, cornerback Tavon Young scored the Ravens' second defensive touchdown in two weeks and the Ravens rolled to their third straight win, 26-16, over the Atlanta Falcons.

For all the talk about Lamar Jackson at quarterback, the Ravens (7-5) may only go as far as their defense leads them. And in this game, it was the Ravens' defense that carried the day.

"Our coaches kind of put it on us, to go out there and challenge them," Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith said. "It was a man-on-man challenge today and we responded."

Did they ever. The high-flying Falcons were held to just 131 yards of total offense.

Ryan entered the game leading the NFL in passing yards, and wide receiver Julio Jones entered the game leading the league in receiving yards. The Ravens had a two-word response to that, "So what?"

Ryan finished with 131 yards passing, the fewest he's ever had in a full game in his 11-year career. Jones had two catches for 18 yards.

They harassed Ryan. They neutralized Jones, largely with one-on-one coverage by Smith. Finally, the Ravens all but sealed Atlanta's demise with Onwuasor's strip sack of Ryan early in the fourth quarter.

After Onwuasor knocked the ball from Ryan, Young scooped it up and scampered 14 yards for a touchdown that gave Baltimore a 26-10 lead. As the Ravens' defense celebrated in the end zone, you could feel the life being sucked out of Atlanta's offense.

"I was coming off the edge on a blitz, and I saw a chance to go for the ball," Onwuasor said. "I just went for it. I saw Tavon scoop it and score it. Beautiful. That's Ravens football."

The Ravens' defense, coupled with a ball-control offense, has been an impressive combination during this three-game winning streak. Baltimore controlled the football for more than 39 minutes Sunday, helping the Ravens' defense to play lights-out for the remaining 21 minutes. With the offense chewing up the clock, Ravens safety Eric Weddle says the defense had plenty of energy and no excueses.

"I told the guys before that last drive, 'We've been sitting out for 15 minutes. So we better have energy, you better hit whatever you see, and let's go win this game.'"

Head Coach John Harbaugh said he was not aware Baltimore had possessed the ball for more than 39 minutes until the game was over. But he was aware of how well the Ravens' defense played.

"It was great to see the way the defense responded," Harbaugh said. "I think it's a testament to those players, those coaches. This is one of the most prolific offenses in football. You can't say it's not."

The Ravens' defense loves this kind of challenge, and they responded. Outside linebacker Terrell Suggs played as if he found a fountain of youth in Atlanta with a sack, three tackles, and consistent pressure on Ryan.

Asked how he can play stellar football in December, at age 36, Suggs said, "I think it's the confidence the coaching staff has in me. You got to ignore the noise, and just kind of know that people know football, and know you."

Suggs credited Defensive Coordinator Wink Martindale for calling, "a hell of a game." This wasn't the first time the Ravens have been special defensively. They had a franchise-record 11-sack performance against the Tennessee Titans. The Ravens went the first six games of the season without giving up a second-half touchdown.

Another defensive test awaits next weekend, when the Ravens visit the Kansas City Chiefs, led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes directing another potent offense. But as Weddle said, the Ravens believe they can match up defensively with anyone.

A ball-control offense and a strong defense can take a team a long way. Weddle, who couldn't stop moving even after the game was over, was excited about the possibilities.

"We have our identity," Weddle said. "We've learned over the course of the year. We win on first and second down, and be us on third down – pressure, in your face, different looks. Credit to Wink and his staff for putting together a great plan.

"What a win, on the road, to do what we did defensively. Huge game next week."

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