PLEASE NOTE:The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed on BaltimoreRavens.com represent those of individual authors, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions or policies of the Baltimore Ravens' organization, front office staff, coaches and executives. Authors' views are formulated independently from any inside knowledge and/or conversations with Ravens officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.
In Round 1 of the duel between the first two quarterbacks taken in the 2008 Draft, Atlanta's Matt Ryan scored a victory over Baltimore's Joe Flacco.
But it wasn't the knockout it looked to be early on Thursday.
Ryan threw for a season-high 316 yards and three touchdowns, good for a 101.8 passer rating.
He was in control of Atlanta's offense throughout the night, attempting a career-high 50 passes and completing 32 of them, including a 33-yard game-winner to wide receiver Roddy White.
However, had Ryan not orchestrated an 80-yard game-winning drive in 45 seconds, the night would have been Flacco's.
After going 5-of-8 for 31 yards in the first half, Flacco threw for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the second half, including two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the Ravens the lead with 1:05 remaining. Flacco finished with a 99.2 quarterback rating, not far behind Ryan's.
"I think Matt is one of the premiere quarterbacks in this league and I thought Joe matched him there at the end," Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said.
Ryan was accurate and smart with the football. He made several audibles at the line of scrimmage that paid off, including on Atlanta's first touchdown when he found running back Jason Snelling wide-open for a 28-yard touchdown.
The Falcons' touchdown drives were 91, 75 and 81 yards each, respectively.
"They did a good job of controlling the football and having long drives," Flacco said. "[Ryan] did a good job and completed a lot of passes and looked good out there."
"We knew coming into it he could make good throws," Ravens cornerback Fabian Washington added. "If a guy separates a little bit, he can get the ball in there."
Flacco was tested by a heavy pass rush throughout the first half, particularly on third down. The Ravens possessed the ball just eight minutes, 34 seconds and managed 76 total offensive yards.
The second half didn't start much better for Flacco as he was intercepted when he threw into coverage on third-and-long – snapping a streak of 137 passes without a pick.
After that, however, Flacco found a groove with veteran wideout Anquan Boldin (5 catches, 50 yards, 1 touchdown) and tight end Todd Heap (4 catches, 57 yards, 1 touchdown). He looked more comfortable in the pocket and moved well within it. Flacco stepped up and scrambled 13 yards on third-and-9 on Baltimore's third-quarter touchdown drive.
"We've got to build off this," Flacco said. "Realize that we did a lot of things well, just didn't do them good enough."