The Baltimore Ravens came into Mercedes-Benz Stadium riding a two-game winning streak that was powered by a strong running game and an old-school defensive scheme built on pressuring quarterbacks as fast as possible. That formula continued to work for the Ravens as they beat the Atlanta Falcons today 26-16. Although, the score was not indicative of the thorough domination by the men of the Charm City.
Rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson had 200 total yards (125 passing, 75 rushing) and one rushing touchdown. Baltimore possessed the ball for 39 minutes and 39 seconds, racking up 366 total offensive yards as their running game bludgeoned the Falcons defense.
Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was 16 of 26 for 131 yards and went down three times on sacks. He was blitzed early and often by the Baltimore defense. The Falcons running game struggled all afternoon, accounting for just 34 yards on 15 carries.
“We just aren’t making plays,” Falcons offensive tackle Jake Matthews said. “We are just not putting ourselves in good situations. Obviously, it’s showing. We have a lot of things to get better at. There are two options though. We can either thrown in the towel or go back to work and get better. I know the mentality of this team. I already know what we are going to do. We are going to work at it and get better at it until it’s right. That’s our mindset.”
The Falcons have a four-game losing streak, their longest since a six-game skid in 2015. During this quagmire, the game was played before thousands of empty seats at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Falcons fans vociferously showed their displeasure with plenty of boos each time Ryan was hit, hurried and/or sacked.
“It has been an emotional year up and down,” Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said after the game. “I mean, we make good plays and go all the way to the end and come out on the losing end.
It is emotional for everyone involved. For us in here and for the fans, it is an emotional up and down rollercoaster that we are not coming out on the right end of. It is unfortunate, but we have got to find a way to come out on the right end of it. We have been in some tight games all year that could go either way. There is no excuse, we just have to find a way to come out on the right end of it.”
The only excitement for the Falcons was provided by Vic Beasley, who picked up a fumble after Grady Jarrett forced a Lamar Jackson fumble and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown with 11:33 remaining in the second quarter. It was 10-7 Atlanta at that moment in the game. That would be the only touchdown on the day for the Dirty Birds.
The Ravens defense showed its quality as they held Atlanta’s offense to 2-of-9 on third downs. They also stifled running back Tevin Coleman’s production, holding him to eight yards on six carries. It must be noted, his longest run of the afternoon was an eight-yard run in the second quarter.
“We’ve learned over the course of the season when we play together, we win on first and second down and we be us on third down,” said Ravens safety Eric Weddle. “That’s being aggressive. Be in your face. Pressure. Different looks. Keeping the quarterback on his toes and we did that throughout the course of the game. Obviously, credit to Wink [Don Martindale] and the staff for putting a great game plan together and for the team.
Obviously, the offense helped us out. The time of possession has been huge over the last three weeks. Keeping us rested. Keeping us fresh in the fourth quarter. I told the guys before that last drive, ‘We’ve been sitting down for 15 minutes, so we better have the energy. You better hit whatever you see these next few plays and let’s go win this game.’ It’s complementary football that we’re playing and just got to keep rolling. It’s a one-game season for us. I know it’s cliché, but it’s a reality for us. We can’t afford to lose too many games down the stretch.”
Ravens Kicker Justin Tucker made four field goals on the day. With 7:24 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ryan was sacked on his 17-yard line, Patrick Onwuasor forced the fumble and cornerback Tavon Young returned it twelve yards for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.
With all playoff hopes seemingly dashed, the Falcons now travel to Green Bay to face the Packers next Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. Falcons must win their final four games in order to avoid their first losing season since 2014.