The Sports Xchange
In a season filled with disappointment, Sunday's effort against the Baltimore Ravens may have been the low point for the Atlanta Falcons.
The Atlanta offense had its worst game of the year. The Atlanta defense -- hardly a strength to begin with -- struggled again. The result was a 26-16 loss, the team's fourth straight, which delivered the final spike into any playoff hopes that may have existed.
Atlanta dropped to 4-8 and is last in the NFC South. Baltimore improved to 7-5, good for second place behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who played Sunday night, in the AFC North.
"We've got an expectation of how this last quarter [of the season] of football will go and that expectation is for us to play well," Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn said. "It's a challenge we have to overcome."
The Falcons running game had another miserable day. They ran 15 times for 34 yards, a 2.3-yard average. Ito Smith gained 22 yards, with 11 of them coming on the team's longest run.
"It's disappointing," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Offensively we were never able to get into any drives, other than the first and the touchdown drive that we had. Disappointing. Credit to them, they came out, they had a good plan for us and they executed the plan a lot better than we did."
Even the passing game, which has been efficient during the losing streak, came up empty. Ryan completed 16-of-26 passes for a season-low 131 yards and one touchdown. Ryan was sacked three times by Baltimore's aggressive defense.
"Truthfully, it's kind of how we think every week," Baltimore head oach John Harbaugh said. "It's never a moment where we think we're not going to come after him this week or we're not going to go for it. ... Our guys want a chance to make plays."
The Ravens came up with a defensive score after Ryan was hit and fumbled. Tavon Young grabbed the ball and ran it 12 yards for a touchdown.
The Falcons best offensive player may have been defensive end Vic Beasley. Grady Jarrett sacked Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Beasley and returned for a 74-yard touchdown. Beasley punctuated the score by slam dunking the ball over the goalpost, thus incurring an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
The Ravens got a third straight win behind rookie quarterback Jackson, who completed 12-of-21 passes for 125 yards and ran 17 times for 75 yards and one touchdown on a 13-yard run. Jackson was sacked twice, but for only a loss of 8 yards.
The Ravens got four field goals from Justin Tucker to complete the scoring.
Atlanta did get middle linebacker Deion Jones back from a foot injury that had kept him sidelined since the first week. Jones had a team-leading 15 tackles, one for loss, to lead the club.
"I'm good," Jones said. "I feel good. I felt good out there."
The Ravens even trotted out backup quarterback Robert Griffin III, who hadn't played since the last week of the 2016 season. Griffin was forced into the lineup when Jackson had to leave for a concussion evaluation. He led a 14-play drive for a field goal and returned to the bench after Jackson was cleared.
Griffin completed 2-of-4 passes for 21 yards but did not run the ball.
"Personally, it's emotional because a year ago no one thought I'd be playing in the NFL ever again," Griffin said. "That was a special moment for me, but I tried not to make that the focal point of what was going on."