It was an exciting debut to Thursday Night Football on the NFL Network, with a game going down to the wire as the Falcons added weight to the claims of those who see them as a Super Bowl contender.
If they are to play in Dallas in February, they’ll need to finish teams off better. They really missed out on killing this game off earlier, presenting the Ravens an opportunity to get back into it (which they duly took). In the end, the main difference came down to some superior quarterback play and a fantastic (albeit controversial to some) final drive of the game.
Regardless, both teams can come out of this one knowing they can compete at the highest level.
Ravens: Three performances of note
Continuing his excellent season (even if it goes unnoticed), Terrell Suggs (+4.6) gave the Atlanta offensive line fits. He moved around from the left and the right spot and accounted for more than half the total pressure the Ravens got with his two-sack, four-hit, three-pressure day. He didn’t even slack off in the run game, showing excellent discipline and picking up two defensive stops.
We go from great to god awful and the noticeably bad performance of Michael Oher (-6.1). His run blocking wasn’t great and he couldn’t handle whoever the Falcons put at right end, constantly beaten when guys would delay their attack or move inside him. He gave up a sack, two hits and four pressures — his worst day of the season.
If the Ravens may be looking back and trying to think why they didn’t win, they should probably question themselves as to why they didn’t use Ray Rice (+2.8) more. Rice made things happen on his 12 carries, picking up 36 of his 59 yards after contact and turning his three receptions into 47 yards after the catch. He missed part of the game with an injury, but are 15 touches enough for a guy like Rice?
Falcons: Three performances of note
Back in 2008 when the Falcons went to the playoffs, there were two performers who stood head and shoulders above the rest. In this game they both stood out. Starting with the obvious, giving the media hype bestowed upon him since the victory, Matt Ryan (+5.7) had a very good game. Probably not as great as some would make out (he missed some passes, including one where Roddy White was wide open), but he moved the ball superbly and made a number of impressive throws (and his decision making was excellent). He never came close to throwing an interception and dealt with pressure like an expert, strangely completing more throws when pressured (66.7 percent) than when he wasn’t (63.2). However, you look at it Ryan is quietly having an excellent year.
The defensive star performer was John Abraham (+6.1). He’s had a number of up-and-down displays this year, but this was perhaps his most impressive. He made two nice plays in the run game (though he did lose containment at times, as par the course with Abraham) but his best work was done in pass rushing situations. He attacked the quarterback 27 times and the end result was two sacks, a further six pressures and a batted pass. He still has it and if he can play like this every week, the Falcons’ defense will continue to get itself off the field.
Though the commentators gave him plenty of credit, we’ll take a different look at Brent Grimes (-2.6). Unfortunately for the former undrafted free agent, he was the constant victim of the Ravens’ passing attack. It’s not that he got beaten badly (there was only really one overthrown deep ball where he was) but he just couldn’t stop the Ravens’ receivers catching the ball. He allowed eight of 13 balls thrown at him to be complete, and two of those were touchdowns. It was a tough test for Grimes and while he did make some nice plays, he just struggled with the wily duo of Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason.
Terrence Cody (+1.7) looked the best we’ve seen him in his 17 snaps. He made two defensive stops as he saw more action than ever before.
No. 2 tight end Michael Palmer (-1.1) had a tough day with his run blocking. … Starting defensive tackle Corey Peters (-0.5) had a so-so day, although he was only on the field for 17 snaps. His run defense wasn’t great.
Nine players on the Ravens’ team missed a tackle, only three Falcons players did. … All but 1 yard from Michael Turner came after contact (38 of 39)