Whether it be a penalty, a missed assignment, a poor block or a flubbed tackle, the Ravens’ top offense and defense didn’t leave coach John Harbaugh with much reason to be encouraged.
Yes, the Ravens won, but as Harbaugh said, the first-teamers owed the backups a big high five for bailing them out.
For the players that matter most, Thursday was a night to forget, or maybe more importantly to learn from.
“The things that are disappointing are obviously the way we played fundamental football in the first half and the first quarter. There was really not too much good about it,” Harbaugh said. “Penalties on offense and the field position set us back tremendously. We didn’t run the ball real well - give credit to their defense - but we didn’t run the ball well. That was a negative. We didn’t stop the run - that’s something that has to happen, we have to stop the run.
“I’m really disappointed because I felt like we’d come out, based on the way we’ve been practicing, and play a lot better. But it wasn’t the fact that we were getting knocked around. It was the fact that we did not do a good job of playing team run defense, and you have to do that. One guy can’t be upfield, and guy can’t run behind the block. We’re better than that, and I think our guys are so excited to play that they lost track of their fundamentals a little bit. That and the penalties on defense, and the first drive or two, really hurt us.
“But the good news is those are things you can correct overnight. Doesn’t take much to correct those things. But it has to get done if we’re going to be the team that we hope to be.”
To illustrate those struggles, you only need to look at the first-half numbers.
Atlanta converted 16 first downs while Baltimore had just three. The Ravens were outgained 255-131 - 77 of Baltimore’s yards came on Torrey Smith’s touchdown catch and just 13 came via the run.
The Ravens committed five penalties for 52 yards while the Falcons were flagged just twice.
And all of that came together to send Baltimore into the locker room trailing 20-7.
Quarterback Joe Flacco didn’t like what he saw from the offense, which managed just 19 plays before halftime.
“We were just sloppy, obviously,” he said. “I mean, first-and-25 on the first drive. The second drive, we scored. The third drive, we were backed up and we false started, didn’t get out of there. I completed a pass there, but short of the first down. I think the next one, I threw a pick. So we were sloppy.
“We didn’t run a lot of plays because of that, so we were never able to get in a rhythm. So I think we’ve just got to clean up some of those penalties and help out ourselves to stay on the field a little bit. You love the one-play touchdown drives, but at the same time, it would’ve been nice to get in a little bit of a rhythm and complete some passes. We just never did that tonight. ... We’ve got to come ready to go and not do stuff that’s going to hurt us.”
Tailback Ray Rice, who has just 17 yards on 11 rushes through two preseason games, isn’t ready to get too concerned about those struggles.
“You’re calling them struggles - I’m calling them preseason work. That’s what you work on in the preseason,” he said. “If you don’t have things to work on in the preseason, then obviously you’re the greatest team in mankind. All 32 teams got to work, but it was proven tonight that our young guys have the ability to come in and get a win, and it was pretty amazing.”
Jacoby Jones, who entered camp pegged as the No. 2 receiver but has one catch for four yards in two games, will be more worried if it’s more of the same for the starters next week.
“You always want to come out and do well,” he said. “But we want to get out to that next third game, when we can really get out there and get our feet wet.
“What offensive team wants to be three and out? You want to go out there and make plays, and drive down and score the ball, keep the defense off the field. So we’ve got to get that fixed.”
Linebacker Terrell Suggs hopes that the shoddy showing for the first team nudges the starters in the right direction. The Ravens’ top defense allowed 179 passing yards and 76 rushing before mostly being lifted at the end of the first half.
“It wasn’t perfect, but this was good for us. We’re playing a good team,” he said. “We knew they were going to make some plays, but it’s all about how you respond. This was good for us - a little humble pie. 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.”
NOTE: Harbaugh said linebacker Elvis Dumervil suffered a groin injury and safety Matt Elam hurt his ankle, but they’re both fine.