The return of Deion Jones was supposed to help the Falcons up front. It would help them with so many of their issues all season in stopping the run, and give their depleted secondary a chance to make some plays in obvious passing situations.
The Baltimore Ravens laughed all over that to the tune of 20 rushing yards on 49 carries in their 26-16 win over the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to drop Atlanta to 4-8.
“We just aren’t making plays,” said Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. “We are going to work at it and get better at it until it’s right. That’s our mindset.”
The Ravens effectively grinded the game into dust in the third quarter after Lamar Jackson went into the locker room after being kicked in the head by a teammate in a freak incident on the previous possession. It gave the Falcons a chance to step up on defense against what was effectively a third-string quarterback in Robert Griffin III.
Baltimore got the football with 8:39 remaining in the third quarter up 13-10 when Jackson left the contest. That possession went a run by Kenneth Dixon, a Gus Edwards run, a short pass from Griffin III, three straight runs from Edwards, and two more runs from Dixon before anything substantial came through the air.
That drive finished with Baltimore going 60-yards on 14 plays, and taking 8:08 off the clock before Justin Tucker banged a field goal home to double the lead. 10 out of the 14 plays were on the ground, and a helpless Matt Ryan could only watch the time tick away as his defense was incapable of stopping the run.
When the Ravens got the ball back after a three-and-out from the Falcons, they went 13 plays for 55 yards and took another 6:38 off the clock. This was with Jackson back in the game, but they still didn’t have to let their rookie quarterback do much. Nine of the plays on the possession were on the ground, and they went for 47 of the 55 yards.
“I think he’s tough,” said Deion Jones on defending Jackson. “A little bit faster than most of the other ones we’ve faced, but good kid. You know, flying around, doing what you have to do.”
On offense, it wasn’t a much better story in the running game. Atlanta had a critical failure to pick up a first down when they got no push up front at all on a Tevin Coleman fourth-and-1 run in the second quarter. Steve Sarkisian had so little faith in his running game on a third-and-1 in the third quarter, he had Mohamed Sanu throw a pass out of the “12 gauge” look that fell incomplete.
Atlanta’s leading rusher on the day was Ito Smith with 22-yards, 17 of which came in the first quarter. In total, the Falcons finished the game with 34 rushing yards, and 21 of them were in the first quarter.
All of it led to a staggering lack of ball control for Atlanta, as the Ravens nearly doubled up the Falcons in time of possession at 39:39 to 20:21.
Across the second half, Baltimore managed to just shut the game down with 151 rushing yards on just 31 attempts, good enough for 4.87 yards per carry. The Falcons had three rushing yards on two rushing attempts.
“Clearly, they had a good run game and we said a few weeks ago we were going to stay committed to it, get our touches to go, and we get to the end of the game again today, we were in a drop-back game the whole time,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn. “We have not opened the holes and the space and creating it at the spot and the level that we have come to understand is acceptable.”
All season the defense against the run had been an issue for the Falcons, who entered the game 25th in the league in rush defense.
On Sunday that manifested itself big time, and it cost the Falcons another game at home.