Falcons vs. Ravens: Revamped Baltimore defense shows first signs of growing pains

Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports

After looking dominant in Tampa Bay during their preseason opener, the Ravens' defensive unit appeared outmatched against the Falcons on Thursday night.

The Baltimore Ravens may have picked up the 27-23 win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night, but did so in an underwhelming fashion. A week after showing no signs of a Super Bowl hangover in a dominating 44-16 romp through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the defending champs looked like they needed a bottle of water and a greasy omelet to cure their bad night against the Dirty Birds.

Atlanta jumped out to a 23-7 lead before the Ravens launched a second-half comeback. While the coaches were certainly enthused by the stellar play of backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor -- he threw for two touchdowns for a second consecutive week -- they would rather their backups not have to dig the first-stringers out of deep holes moving forward.

The Baltimore defense, caught in a reshuffle following the departure of walking legends Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, was notably less comfortable than it had been against the Bucs. After giving up just 273 total yards in Tampa Bay, they were blasted for over 400 against the Falcons.

Jason Butt of Baltimore Beatdown sees the front seven's inability to slow down Steven Jackson and the Atlanta rushing attack as a problem:

The Ravens' first-team defense, revamped and all, could not stop the run. Steven Jackson ran for 42 yards on eight carries, good for a 5.2-yard average. The Falcons' offensive line has been a problem through training camp and had a poor outing a week ago. They were able to neutralize the Ravens up front when running the ball. It's a preseason game, so it's a lot of base defense vs. base offense. But this group shouldn't have been beaten up front the way it was against the run. Not against that Falcons' offensive line.

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