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Ravens showed a lot of heart in a heart-breaker. A faster start is all that’s needed. As Ray Rice said, look at how bad the Ravens played in the first half and yet they were still in the lead with seconds remaining against one of the NFL’s best. That’s why the Ravens running back conceded that his offense needs to start faster, but is also holding his head high. One week after media accused Brandon Marshall of quitting on the Dolphins when knocked down by the Ravens, Anquan Boldin did the opposite and rallied his teammates on the sideline, urging them to step up their game. Whatever he said clearly worked because the offense responded with 21 second-half points. It’s a disappointing loss, but the Ravens are smart and humble enough to let it make them better.
The defense let the Falcons off the hook and is taking it personally. First off, part of the reason the Ravens were still in this game was because the defense held Atlanta to two field goals after two Ravens turnovers. Let’s give them credit for that. Having said that, the Ravens D is not happy about surrendering the game-winning touchdown. “We let them off the hook,” Ed Reed said. Historically the purple and black rarely “let teams off the hook,” but Baltimore has lost three fourth-quarter leads this season. Terrell Suggs, who wasn’t in the mood to celebrate his season-best two sacks and four quarterback hits, urged fans not to lose hope. Said Suggs, “There’s not many times this Ravens team’s going to let our fans down and let our city down. We’re going to come through more times than not.”
Joe Flacco had a stellar second half, while Matt Ryan had a stellar game. We’ve been anxiously awaiting this matchup since the day the two promising quarterbacks were drafted in 2008. It was Ryan who got off to the better start, throwing for 160 yards and one touchdown to Flacco’s 31 yards and no touchdowns in the first half. Analysts frequently said Ryan’s throws were precise, his decisions were smart, and his protection was superior to Flacco’s. Under duress, Flacco had difficulty sustaining drives long enough to just stay on the field. But as Head Coach John Harbaugh said, Joe matched Matt at the end of the game. The stats prove as much. Baltimore’s offensive signal caller notched 184 second-half yards and three touchdowns, while his counterpart put up another 156 yards and two touchdowns. That stat is revealing of Joe Cool’s character because he didn’t give up when things looked bleak. After the game, Flacco and Ryan shook hands, sparking excitement for the rematches sure to come throughout their careers. We’d be in for a real treat if one of those came during the post season…deep in the post season.
A new quandary has emerged, the third down. It feels like a swift kick to the gut when a team plays solid on first and second downs, only to watch an opponent convert on third. “I thought the difference was the third down.” said Coach Harbaugh. “They converted their third downs, we didn’t.” The Ravens defense allowed a season-worst 12 conversions on third downs, resulting in three Atlanta scoring drives of 10 plays or longer. And the lop-sided time of possession can guzzle a defensive players’ gas tank. The good news is, entering the game, Baltimore was the seventh best third-down defense. So the hope is that their struggles will be isolated to this one game.
Quick Hit Lessons Learned: The Ravens are still waiting for a punt returner to prove he is the long-term reliable answer. Lardarius Webb wants back his fumble. Outsiders put a lot of focus on the Ravens rush defense leading into the game. Ravens defensive tackles, including Haloti Ngata, deserve a lot of credit for holding Michael Turner to just 39 yards. Turner has four 100-yard games this season. Josh Wilson got his first start of the season for the Ravens and played well for the majority of the game, but his man scored the game-winner. Many analysts believe the refs should have called the “obvious” offensive pass interference.