BALTIMORE — After a 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the preseason opener a week ago, the Atlanta Falcons were determined to have a more representative showing Thursday night.
The Falcons’ regulars certainly did their part against the Baltimore Ravens, controlling the first half against the defending Super Bowl champions. Atlanta had a 16-3 edge in first downs while a majority of first-unit players were on the field and led 20-7 at halftime.
The Ravens, though, scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, going ahead on Asa Jackson’s 77-yard punt return for a 27-23 victory. The Falcons also gave up a long punt return for a TD in the loss to the Bengals.
The Falcons’ defense completely shut down Joe Flacco and the Ravens regulars except for one play — a 77-yard touchdown pass in which Torrey Smith broke free after catching a slant pass in the first quarter. Meanwhile Matt Ryan was 8-for-15 for 97 yards and a touchdown in four series, and Steven Jackson had eight carries for 42 yards plus a 13-yard reception before leaving a series earlier than Ryan.
“Our offensive line came out and played very, very well,” Ryan said. “There run blocking was as good as I’ve seen in a while.”
Jackson, the Falcons’ big offseason addition, agreed.
“The line came our very aggressive,” the former St. Louis Rams standout said. Ryan’s TD pass was a 7-yarder to Julio Jones, who had three catches for 55 yards during the 80-yard drive in the second quarter. Jones sat out the preseason opener, but quickly showed his hamstring was fine on a 32-yard pass play.
Matt Bryant had a 45-yard field goal to start the Falcons scoring and backup Jeremy Shelley booted a 42-yarder early in the second quarter.
The Falcons’ second touchdown was set up by an interception against Flacco. Thomas DeCoud deflected a pass that was intercepted by Asante Samuel and returned 30 yards. Samuel fumbled, but Peria Jerry recovered at the 2-yard line and Jacquizz Rodgers ran it in on the next play.
Shelley kicked a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter and Dominique Franks killed a Ravens deep drive with an interception near the end of the period. But Tyrod Taylor threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter for Baltimore, connecting with Aaron Mellette for 40-yards and Tandon Doss for 5 yards. The Falcons are on the road again for their third tune-up game next Saturday at Tennessee. The preseason finale is Aug. 29 against Jacksonville at the Georgia Dome.
Notes: The Falcons lost wide receiver Roddy White to a sprained right ankle in the first quarter. … Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon missed his second straight game because of a badly dislocated finger. He may be able to play against Tennessee. … Tight end Tony Gonzalez will return to camp next week and could also play against the Titans.