BALTIMORE, Md. - Preseason football is less about the final score and more about individual performances and working on getting ready for the regular season.
The Ravens understand that and will have a lot to go over in the film room and on the practice field following their game against the Atlanta Falcons Thursday night in front of an announced crowd of 70,527 fans at M&T Bank Stadium. At the same time, the Ravens have a lot to be proud of after rallying back from a 23-7 third quarter deficit to win 27-23.
Cornerback Asa Jackson, who will be suspended for the first eight regular season games for violating the league's performance enhancement drug policy , made the most of his time in the preseason as his 78-yard punt return for a touchdown with 6:18 remaining proved to be the game-winner.
That score came after Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor tossed two fourth quarter touchdown passes. The first was a 40-yard strike to rookie Aaron Mellette followed by a 5-yard score to Tandon Doss. The fourth-year signal-caller finished the game having completed 5 of 9 passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns and an interception .
"Coming out of halftime, we just needed to build some type of rhythm," Taylor said.
The Ravens rally with their second- and third-string players came after a mistake and penalty filled first half where many of the starters struggled.
The first-team offense finished with 131 yards of total offense in the first half, but 85 of those came on two receptions from wide receiver Torrey Smith. Of that, 77 yards came following a short pass from quarterback Joe Flacco that Smith took into the end zone, to give the Ravens a 7-3 lead with 6:24 left in the first quarter.
"We kind of beat ourselves with penalties and certain miscues, and it's tough to play from behind," Smith said. "When you're not playing many plays, it's tough to recover from that, but we'll be fine. We know what the mistakes were that we made and you can't make penalties, so obviously we need to correct that."
The Falcons then scored 20 unanswered points. This included a 2-yard touchdown run by running back Jacquizz Rodgers with 5:19 left in the first half. That run came one play after a short pass by Flacco intended by Jacoby Jones was intercepted by Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, who then scampered 33 yards. The Falcons last points came on a 29-yard field goal by Jeremy Shelley to extend the lead to 23-7 with 3:34 left in the third quarter.
"I like the fact that our guys will fight and try to win, no matter what the adversity or circumstances are," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the good part of it...The things that are disappointing are obviously the ay we played fundemental football in the first half and the first quarter. There was really not too much good about that."
Flacco, who played the entire first half, completed 7 of 9 passes for 118 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"We were just sloppy," Flacco said. "We never got into a rhythm. The one drive we did score on, but it was just one play. We were just sloppy – penalties, mistakes and stuff like that. We just weren't good and we didn't play well. We've just got to go back to practice, continue to improve and when we come out here, we've got to play better."
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who played a little more than a quarter, completed 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. That score came on an 8-yard strike up the middle to Julio Jones, who finished with three catches for 55 yards.
The Falcons are now 0-2 in the preseason, which includes a 34-10 loss to Cincinnati Bengals last week.
"From the first game to the second game of the preseason there's a lot of improvement," Ryan said. "You knock a lot of rust off in the first game. We were better this week than we were last , and that's what you want to do in the preseason. You want to continue to get better. We've got a long way to go, but it's a good start."
The Ravens, who are now 2-0 in the preseason , next play Aug. 22 when they host the Carolina Panthers in their final home preseason game.