Ravens moving on after frustrating loss

It was the kind of frustrating setback that prompts a bit of soul-searching, a long weekend studying countless hours of game tape and a rare Monday practice. Following an aborted comeback attempt during a 26-21 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night at the Georgia Dome, the Baltimore Ravens spent the past three days looking for ways to improve.

Among the problems that plagued the Ravens: an increasingly vulnerable secondary, an inconsistent pass rush and the recurring trend of slow starts on the road.

"There are a lot of specific things in each phase at each position group," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Those are things we spent time on Friday as a staff going through with a fine-tooth comb.

"The position coaches and the coordinators were on top of it, but we went through it all as a staff. We had three days to do some things we normally don't do, kind of a mini bye week."

None of the Ravens' problems, especially the trend of not starting fast qualified as a mystery being revealed to the players.

The Ravens have now surrendered 11 touchdown passes and 6.64 yards per passing attempt. They've generated only 16 sacks, and 11 ½ of those outside linebacker Terrell Suggs and defensive tackle Haloti Ngata are responsible for.

And they've been outscored 37-27 in the first quarter this season, falling behind 10-0 to the Falcons at halftime.

"We've got to start faster," running back Ray Rice said. "That's all there is to it." The Ravens have managed to score only one field goal in the first quarter in five road contests this season.

"They're very introspective, they know their issues," Harbaugh said. "We kind of work it out together. We work on scheme, we work on technique."

Harbaugh said multiple things are preventing the Ravens from getting off to more productive starts. One common thread for Baltimore has been not converting on third downs early in games.

Against the Falcons, quarterback Joe Flacco had only 31 passing yards by halftime before finishing up with 215 yards and three touchdown passes.

"It's specific issues, it's play by play, drive by drive," Harbaugh said. "Execution is what it really boils down to. There's not some formula for scoring on the road early in a drive. There's executing on the road, executing at home, attacking the defense effectively, throwing, catching, blocking, tackling. That's what it really boils down to: playing well. ..

"I watch every game, inside-out, upside-down, backwards and forwards. We're trying to look at all of the things that are football-related to help us get better."

The loss to the Falcons didn't hurt the Ravens in terms of the playoff race. The Ravens (6-3) remain tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, holding a tiebreaker edge by virtue of their victory at Heinz Field earlier this season.

Baltimore is preparing for a road game Sunday against the hapless Carolina Panthers (1-8). Four of their final six regular-season games are at home. The Ravens are undefeated at home this year and have won seven consecutive games at M&T Bank Stadium dating back to last year. "I'd rather be 9-0," Harbaugh said. "Are we happy with 6-3? No, but that's where we are. We are on top of the division and we have our fate in our own hands. ..

"We've got to get better, that's the thing. We're a good football team right now. If we get better, we're going to be a force to contend with in this race."

The defense faltered in the final minute against the Falcons, allowing Matt Ryan to engineer the game-winning drive that he capped with a touchdown pass to Roddy White when he shoved cornerback Josh Wilson to the ground. Much to the Ravens' chagrin, no flag was thrown. It was a squandered comeback try after Flacco hit tight end Todd Heap with a touchdown pass with just 1:05 remaining.

"Every time you don't win in this league it's a missed opportunity," Harbaugh said. "If we'd have won the game on Thursday night it would have been great for us. We'd have been tied for the best record in the National Football League. We didn't, so we aren't."

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