Falcons Barely Avoid Shut-Out, Loses Big at Baltimore


The Falcons desperately needed some positivity in week 7, and travelled to Baltimore to meet the Joe Flacco led Ravens. A week after a brutal home loss to the Bears, the 2-4 Falcons had no Harry Douglas but brought an otherwise healthy group in from a week ago. A windy day and a 1-10 road record since 2013 awaited Matt Ryan and the Falcons, and they received the opening kickoff with a chance to set the tone. The opening drive was anything but impressive, with an incompletion, run for no gain and short completion leading to a three and out and the first punt of the day. Just one minute in, it looked like it was going to be one of those days for Atlanta. The trend only continued when an early deep ball to Torrey Smith drew a flag. The Ravens play from midfield suddenly turned into a 1st and goal, and a deficit for Atlanta seemed imminent. The Ravens were only too happy to oblige as, after two Falcons stops, a third and goal was converted from Flacco to Owen Daniels. 7-0 Baltimore, as the Falcons found themselves in yet another early hole.

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The Falcons offense rolled onto the field, putting up another three and out in no time, but showing a desire to get the ground game going early in the contest. A booming Matt Bosher punt and a penalty backed the Ravens up, and the defense which had yielded a huge penalty but had otherwise pushed hard took the field. A 9 yard gain on first down had Falcons fans groaning, but a tackle for a loss set up a 3rd and 4. The Falcons defense had a chance to force a three and out, and collapsed the pocket in textbook fashion. Flacco escaped what looked a sure sack, but the defense had not only held but stood up. Enough was enough for this team, and the offense took the field for a third time looking to break through their tough start.

Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Owen Daniels (81) tips the ball to himself for a catch in front of Atlanta Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu (59) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

As Atlanta picked up their first 1st down of the day, it was pleasing to see Antone Smith be featured early in a game, as the explosive RB burst through for another 1st down on several early carries. That’s where the good news ended however as, having already lost starting center Joe Hawley for the year, backup C Peter Konz was carted back to the locker room. In came rookie UDFA James Stone, a regular inactive early in the season, to call the shots. The offensive line play was the focal point a few plays later, as on 3rd and 10 Ryan was sacked, fumbled, and the ball was recovered by the Ravens in Falcons field goal territory. Scoreless after three drives and 7-0 at quarter time.

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Things changed right away when, on the first play of the 2nd quarter, Flacco threw a deep bomb to Torrey Smith. Robert Alford, who had been picked on for weeks, responded with an interception in the end zone. The Falcons defense had forced the much needed turnover, and the offense trotted back out looking to put up points. Frustraingly, the unit which had lead the league in the opening weeks of the year again stalled, failing to pick up a first down. Whether it’s the poor offensive line play, the lack of Harry Douglas or just an over-performance early on, but the Falcons offense was, for the second straight week, the worse of the three units. The defense was having no rest, as the offense couldn’t convert any third downs, but the D again looked solid. Much maligned coordinator Mike Nolan had to be pleased with the turnaround on early down defense. Third down had been the undoing, but yet again the Falcons D delivered. Paul Worrilow burst through the Ravens line on a third and 10, recording the sack and generating pressure on third down for the second time. Once again it was the offenses turn to get something, anything, going.

Again the offense went three and out, culminating in a sack on third down and a punt. And, once again, the defense looked good. The much maligned Falcons D was brining pressure, beating offensive linemen and pushing the pocket. The big plays still haunted them, as Owen Daniels and Torrey Smith proved too much, moving the ball to the one, before Bernard Pierce slammed home a touchdown against the flow of the game. 14-0, and the Falcons offense had shown no sign of climbing out of a two score game, something that should never be said of this Falcons group. Predictably, a three and out awaited Atlanta, but the team got a huge break with Jacoby Jones fumbling the punt return. Atlanta ball at the 35 yard line, and if they were ever to score, now would be the time.

Yet again the O-line buckled, allowing a 1st down sack and forcing the Falcons out of field goal range. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and when Matt Bryant got all of a 57 yard field goal which thudded off the crossbar, it was clear this wasn’t Atlanta’s half. The defense allowed a two minute drill drive for a field goal. It was clear serious adjustments would need to be made to an offense that couldn’t convert a thing.

26. 0. 44. Final. 17

The Falcons opened the second half on defense, and immediately surrendered a 49 yard yard reception to Steve Smith. Already up big, and on 3rd and 1 from the 20 yard line, the Ravens were looking to go up even more, but rookie DT Ra’Shede Hageman had other ideas. A week after blocking a PAT, Hageman burst through the line, wrapping up Bernard Pierce and forcing a Ravens field goal. The offense had made no impact on the game at all but, down 20, had no excuse to not come out of halftime swinging. On the opening play of the drive, Matt Ryan aired it to Roddy White for a 23 yard gain, and again turned to White to convert a 3rd and 6 – signs of life which quickly halted. On a 3rd and 7, Ryan threw a near pick to former Falcon Dominique Franks and, down 20, went for the ensuing 4th down, only to be mauled by the pass rush and turn the ball over. The game was as close to over as it could be.

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  • The Ravens again took the ball to the redzone with ease, and the Falcons defense which had shown heart early on was beginning to tire. The game took yet another turn when, after dropping a sure TD, a pass to Torrey Smith was picked off by Robert Alford as he sped off upfield. 2 picks for the sophomore who’s had an up and down 2014, and something to build on despite the score today. Ryan and the Falcons again started the drive well, before stalling around the 30. Down 20, Atlanta had no choice but to go for it, but a pass to Devonta Freeman in the flats didn’t get enough and, as the third quarter ended, Atlanta had nothing to show for 45 minutes of football.

    The defense again forced a stop after a few big gains, and the offense came out yet again looking to move the ball. This time, they got things going straight away. Going to Roddy White repeatedly to pick up several first down. Ryan showed his newfound agility on several plays, including one huge third down escape which was thrown on the run. The Falcons offense was finally clicking, and Roddy White was having his best game of the season. When Ryan found White in the end zone, the Falcons were finally on the board and were suddenly down just 2 scores. Choosing to kick it deep and play defense, the Falcons allowed the Ravens to burn some clock but ensured another possession with 4:05 to go in the game. The possession came to a stark end with yet another Ravens sack on Matt Ryan, as the safety moved the score to 22-7. Game over.

    Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Pernell McPhee (90) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

    A late Torrey Smith TD sealed what was a dominant performance for the Ravens, and the fact that the Falcons had a shot at cutting the score to something respectable is flattering to the way the offense performed. Despite being comfortably the strongest unit on paper, the offense couldn’t get anything done today until it was all over, whilst the defense struggled but showed signs sparingly throughout the contest. The pass rush was slightly improved on past weeks, and the Falcons forcing 3 takeaways was pleasing. The Falcons were scoreless through 3 quarters, which simply cannot happen with this much firepower offensively. The Antone Smith TD streak finally came to an end, and there really wasn’t a lot to get exited about today. The injury to Peter Konz will have a large impact going forward.

    The poor play of our NFC South rivals has the Falcons somehow still relevant to the playoff hunt. Don’t be fooled; this is a team that should be focusing on a strong draft, a decisive offseason and the 2015 year. What were your thoughts on the game? Where do we go from here? As always, be sure to stay connected with Atlanta Falcons news and opinion on Blogging Dirty.

    Final. 29. 26. 7. 44