The Sports Daily > Ravens Football Machine
Ravens first-team knows it has a lot to clean up after dismal showing against Falcons…

I told you about the Fool [in the gold] on the Hill…

Apparently John Harbaugh saw it too. He called the Ravens' performance in the first half of their 27-23 win over the Falcons Thursday night in PS Game 2 "the worst half he has ever witnessed" from the Ravens.

Couldn't stop the run in the first half. Couldn't get anything going on offense other than a one-shot crossing pattern to Torrey Smith from Joe Flacco that went for 77 yards.

The Ravens' own running game produced only 13 yards in the first half. This is no way to run an airline…

But to be fair, the Falcons showed some great defensive looks on their 1's unit. Even the veteran corner Asante Samuel did what he has done best his entire career—make plays. He picked off a Flacco deflection and sealed the first half for the Falcons, 20-7.

Obviously the Ravens to a man believe that first half was an anomaly and they will clean things up after reviewing the game tape.

But you can pardon the thousands of Ravens fans out there today who may be wondering if a mere cleansing is all that's needed.

That lousy first half may stick inside the team's collective head for a while…

Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com was dramatic in his reporting of the first-half debacle…

"The struggles of the Baltimore Ravens' starting offense this preseason has led to interceptions, three-and-outs and even a shouting outburst by running back Ray Rice. "

Before the Ravens' backups rallied for a 27-23 preseason win over the Atlanta Falcons, Joe Flacco and the offense provided another instance in which Baltimore misses its top two tight ends (Dennis Pitta and Ed Dickson are injured) and has yet to find a No. 2 wide receiver.

In five drives in the first half, the Ravens managed 131 yards of total offense and three first downs. Take away Torrey Smith's 77-yard touchdown — the only highlight for the first-team offense in three quarters of play this preseason — and Baltimore had 54 yards in the first half.

Flacco finished 7-of-9 for 118 yards, but the Ravens were 1-of-5 on third downs in the first half. Flacco's second interception of the preseason came when he forced a pass to Jacoby Jones, who was double covered on that play.

Rice didn't have much running room and was held to 10 yards on eight carries. When he was dropped 4 yards in the backfield late in the second quarter, a visibly upset Rice shouted as he headed to the sideline.

"That's about as bad as we can play," coach John Harbaugh told WBAL Radio while coming off the field at halftime, when the Ravens trailed 20-7.

In three quarters this preseason (eight total drives), the Ravens' starting offense has produced one touchdown, two turnovers (both interceptions) and three three-and-outs.

"We were just sloppy," Flacco said. "We never got into a rhythm."

Here are some other thoughts on the Ravens:

  • Jimmy Smith, who is trying to win a starting cornerback job, had a rough night against wide receiver Julio Jones. Smith gave up three completions to Jones on a first-quarter drive that resulted in gains of 32, 15 and 8 yards. On the 8-yard touchdown to Jones, it looked like Smith was expecting inside help from a safety.
  • Torrey Smith looked like a No. 1 receiver for the Ravens and accounted for two of the team's three third downs in the first half. On his touchdown, he caught a quick pass from Flacco and outran the Falcons defense for the score. Smith then converted a third-and-6 when he picked up 8 yards on a crossing route.
  • The Ravens were penalized seven times for 68 yards. A.Q. Shipley, who got the start at center, drew two flags. He was called for a 15-yard personal foul and was flagged for a false start when the Ravens were backed up to their own end zone. LaQuan Williams also ran into the punter in the third quarter, which allowed the Falcons to convert and fourth-and-3.
  • The Ravens defense is expected to be much stronger against the run this season. But the Falcons' Steven Jackson picked up yards in between the tackles, gaining 42 yards on eight carries, a 5.3-yard average.
  • David Reed had a solid showing as the kickoff returner. He averaged 31.3 yards on three returns, including a 38-yarder. Reed is trying to win one of the final roster spots.
  • Asa Jackson helped his cause for sticking around when he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown, putting the Ravens ahead 27-23 with 6:18 left in the fourth quarter. Jackson has been suspended for the first eight games this season for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

You could call this game a sequel to the "Hangover" from last season's Super Bowl Championship— except 12 guys from that team are gone. Therefore, no "hangover" excuse…

If the goal in preseason games was solely to win, the Baltimore Ravens would have been delighted.

The main objective is to get ready for the regular season, and that's why the Atlanta Falcons almost certainly derived far more satisfaction from Thursday night's preseason game — even though the Ravens pulled out a 27-23 victory.

Matt Ryan threw for 97 yards and a touchdown in four series, and the Falcons bottled up Baltimore's starting offense in the first half before the Ravens' backups rallied with a 20-point fourth quarter.

Atlanta's starters bounced back nicely from an opening 34-10 loss to Cincinnati one week earlier. Under Ryan's direction, the Falcons pierced Baltimore (2-0) for 11 first downs in 16 1/2 minutes and built a 20-7 lead at halftime.

It was 23-7 before Baltimore scored 20 fourth-quarter points, including a 78-yard punt return by Asa Jackson with 6:18 remaining.

Ryan went 8 for 15 and threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Julio Jones. Steven Jackson had 42 yards rushing on eight carries against a unit that has seven new starters on defense.

"That was not us," Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees said at halftime. "That's not how we play. Our fundamentals were not what they should be."

Baltimore's offense wasn't much better. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco played the first half, completing 7 of 9 passes 118 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith.

But over the first 30 minutes, Baltimore made only three first downs and gained 13 yards rushing on 10 carries. Ray Rice got 10 yards on eight attempts, with 8 of those yards coming on one carry.

Atlanta had its way with Baltimore's defense, even though receiver Roddy White hurt his ankle in the first quarter and did not return.

After going three and out on the opening series, Flacco put the Ravens up 7-3 with a touchdown pass to Smith, who cut across the middle of the field from the right side and outran Asante Samuel to the end zone.

Atlanta bounced right back, moving 80 yards in seven plays to take a 10-7 lead. Julio Jones burned cornerback Jimmy Smith for three catches totaling 55 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown play.

In the first quarter, the Falcons ran 21 plays compared to seven for Baltimore and built a 10-1 advantage in first downs.

"We were just sloppy. We never got into a rhythm," Flacco said. "The one drive we did score on, it was just one play."

A field goal by Jeremy Shelley and a 2-yard run by Jacquizz Rodgers made it 20-7.

Last season, the Ravens held opponents under 20 points in nine games (including two in the playoffs). In their preseason opener, they hammered Tampa Bay 44-16. This game was decidedly different.

"This was good for us. A little humble pie," linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We had a lot of success last week, with everything pretty much going our way. Atlanta is a very good team, and you can't make the mistakes we did. It's that simple."

Falcons backup quarterback Dominique Davis went 8 for 10 for 98 yards.

Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez was scratched because he's participating in only portions of training camp as part of his agreement to postpone his retirement.

Baltimore played without tight end Dallas Clark, who signed a one-year contract on Tuesday. Visanthe Shiancoe, another newcomer at tight end, did not have a catch.

Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs 27 13
Passing 1st downs
13 8
Rushing 1st downs
9 1
1st downs from Penalties
5 4
3rd down efficiency
7-18 3-10
4th down efficiency
0-1 0-0
Total Plays 82 46
Total Yards 422 249
Yards per play 5.1 5.4
Total Drives 14 14
Passing 252 188
Comp – Att
24-41 12-18
Yards per pass
6.1 10.4
Interceptions thrown
0 2
Sacks – Yards Lost
1-6 2-13
Rushing 170 61
Rushing Attempts
40 26
Yards per rush
4.3 2.3
Red Zone (Made-Att) 2-5 1-2
Penalties 9-71 7-68
Turnovers 1 2
Fumbles lost
1 0
Interceptions thrown
0 2
Defensive / Special Teams TDs 0 1
Possession 39:40 20:20

It was the kind of game where you found yourself rooting for the 3's and 4's at the end to make the team for either squad.  Clearly Atlanta's 1's and 2's won the first half. Wake-up call to Baltimore…