Defense takes responsibility

OWINGS MILLS – It was a few minutes after midnight and free safety Ed Reed was walking around the Baltimore Ravens' locker room repeating a phrase immortalized by former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green. "We let them off the hook," Reed said following the Ravens' emotional 26-21 loss Thursday night to the Atlanta Falcons. "We let them off the hook. Go ahead and crown them.

The Ravens (6-3) allowed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan to convert 12 of 20 third downs, a 60-percent clip that represents the worst showing of the season for the defense. Heading into the game at the Georgia Dome, the Ravens were ranked seventh in third-down defense when they were allowing opponents to convert just 40.9 percent..

Because of this shortcoming, Ryan engineered scoring drives of 14 plays, 12 plays and 11 plays. "That's the key right there," Reed said. "Instead of us getting off the field, they converted when they had to. Against a good team, you can't do that. They've seen your looks, and they start to maneuver.".

It was a stellar night for Ryan, who completed 30 of 52 passes for 316 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 101.8 quarterback rating. And it was a fairly dismal night for the pass defense as Ryan connected with eight different receivers. "Matt Ryan was on top of his game," cornerback Fabian Washington said. "He's a good quarterback. He can make the throws. If the guy separates a little bit, he'll find a way to get the ball in there." Ryan hit wide receiver Roddy White for a controversial game-winning touchdown where White admitted shoved cornerback Josh Wilson to the ground..

Ryan completed 12 passes to White for 138 yards and two touchdowns, targeting him 17 times. Whenever Ryan needed to make a play on third down, he pulled it off. In third-and-five or longer situations, the Falcons went 6 for 10..

White caught a 28-yarder on 3rd-and-17 on the Falcons' opening series. And Michael Jenkins caught a 24-yarder on 3rd-and-10 on the Falcons' game-winning drive. The Falcons were ranked second in the league before the game at converting third downs. "It's tough, you want to get off the field," cornerback Chris Carr said. "Third-down conversions are critical. They're always a vital part of the game. It was just unfortunate we didn't come up with enough stops on third down, but you have to tip your hat to them because they played well.".

The Falcons ran the no-huddle offense to keep the Ravens off guard. "They came out and no-huddled us and kept the momentum going," said strong safety Dawan Landry, who missed a tackle on running back Jason Snelling's touchdown catch. "Give them credit." The Ravens expected to see the no-huddle attack. Ryan seemed to thrive in the high-octane tempo. "We knew they would do that," outside linebacker Terrell Suggs said. "We adjusted to that and a lot of what they did, but we didn't do enough to win. It's water under the bridge." Suggs sacked Ryan twice and pressured him several times..

Ryan did the majority of his damage in the first half with 20 completions on 28 throws for 160 yards.

Conversely The Ravens converted just 1 of 4 third downs in the first half. In the second half, the Ravens converted 5 of 7 third downs to finish a solid 6 of 11 overall. "I thought the difference was third down," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "In the first half, especially, they converted their third downs. We didn't. That contributed to the fact that they had a huge differential in plays." Ryan averaged 9.9 yards per completion. And he improved to 18-1 at the Georgia Dome, outdueling Joe Flacco.

"I thought Matt Ryan played well," Harbaugh said. "Obviously, he's one of the premier quarterbacks in our league. Matt made a lot of good decisions and a lot of tight throws. He has a great receiving corps and it's going to be a team to be reckoned with throughout the rest of the season."

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