Baltimore Ravens vs Atlanta Falcons: What We Learned


Oct 19, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Ravens tight end Owen Daniels (81) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Ravens fans rejoiced over two victories Sunday, one a 29-7 romp over the Atlanta Falcons and the other the triumph of Joe Flacco over Matt Ryan, his counterpart in the 2008 draft.

Some would say we learned that Flacco has proven once and for all that he’s better than Ryan. I won’t disagree, and I would extend that argument to say we already knew that.

Moving on to the actual game play, here are two things we learned.

The Ravens have a new rotation at safety, and it’s effective

Quick, who got the most reps at safety on Sunday for the Ravens? Darian Stewart and Matt Elam seem the obvious choices, but it was actually rookie Terrence Brooks with 46, followed by Stewart with 45. Elam and the newly introduced Will Hill were a distant second, both receiving 24 reps.

The Ravens sported a unique look Sunday, carrying three cornerbacks and seven safeties on the active roster, three of whom only played on special teams.

The safeties who played on defense, though, all played well. Hill had a big impact in his first action for the Ravens, and there is little doubt his role will increase going forward. He already looks fast and instinctive, qualities that should only improve over the next few weeks as he shakes off the rust.

As for Brooks, he continues to carve out a bigger role for himself, proving to be the only Ravens’ safety capable of consistent deep coverage (though Hill will probably prove able to do this as well in coming weeks). Brooks doesn’t make many splashy plays, but he has yet to make the mistakes that plagued Stewart and Elam early in the season.

Those two guys, meanwhile, have played better recently in roles better suited to their talents. Stewart made several plays close to the line of scrimmage, while Elam had a quiet game. That’s an improvement for both players.

Shutting down the talented Falcons passing attack is a big deal, and the improved safety rotation is a big reason why the Ravens were able to pull it off.

The Ravens can weather an off game from Joe Flacco

Joe Flacco had an impressive stat line (258 yards, 2 touchdowns). Don’t be fooled. Flacco was not his best in this game, with two ugly picks and some missed opportunities deep. If not for Torrey Smith‘s 39-yard touchdown reception late in the game (which came off a beautiful throw), Flacco’s numbers would have looked pretty bad. Yet the Ravens offense remained productive, or at least good enough to win.

That’s a huge difference from last year. If Joe Flacco struggled, so too did an offense that was unable to run the ball and couldn’t pass block.

The keys for the offensive revolution are two-fold.

First of all, the Ravens ground game has improved in a big way. The run blocking has been better, but maybe more importantly, Justin Forsett has consistently picked up yardage by slipping through the tiniest of holes. His ability to generate yardage on a consistent basis has been huge for the offense.

Second, the Ravens receiving corps has improved as well. Steve Smith, for instance, produced the longest pass play of the day, a 49-yard catch. Of that, 47 yards came after the catch. Flacco does not need to be his best when his receivers can make plays after the catch.

The offense will only continue to get stronger as the offensive line gets Kelechi Osemele and Eugene Monroe back from injury. Opponents should be very afraid, and the Ravens should be very excited.