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Ravens go on the defensive, cruise past skidding Falcons 29-7 for 4th win in 5 games

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BALTIMORE — The Baltimore Ravens have a longstanding tradition of playing lockdown defense — a trait the current unit intends to uphold.

Elvis Dumervil and Pernell McPhee each had two sacks, and Baltimore punished Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in a 29-7 victory Sunday.

One week after scoring 48 points at Tampa Bay, the Ravens (5-2) built a 17-0 halftime lead in their second straight blowout.

Baltimore allowed only four first downs in the pivotal first half, finished with five sacks and had a shutout going over the first 52 minutes.

The performance conjured memories of a Baltimore defense that shined for years with Ray Lewis in the middle and Ed Reed at safety.

"Good things, great things, are expected from this defense," Dumervil said. "We work hard all year, so our motto is, 'We're just getting started.'"

Ryan, for one, can't imagine Baltimore's defense being any tougher than it was in this one.

"I think they've got a big menu in terms of what they do defensively," he said. "I thought we were on top of schematically what they wanted to do. Our issue came down to execution. I thought they out-executed us. They played better than we did."

The Falcons (2-5) averted their first shutout loss since December 2004 when Ryan connected with Roddy White for a 4-yard touchdown with 7:12 remaining to make it 20-7. It was Atlanta's first fourth-quarter score in five games.

It was small consolation to a team that has lost four straight, progressively scoring fewer points in each of those games.

"We had way too much pressure," coach Mike Smith said. "Our quarterback was hit and sacked way too much. There were times where we really didn't have a chance to get the play off."

After the touchdown, Atlanta's next possession ended with Terrell Suggs sacking Ryan for a safety.

"Five sacks and really, numerous quarterback hits on a guy that doesn't get hit very often," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "Credit our guys for keeping him (in the pocket) and then for getting him."

Joe Flacco sealed Baltimore's fourth win in five games with 1:46 remaining, connecting with Torrey Smith for a 39-yard touchdown pass on a fourth-and-9.

PHOTO: Atlanta Falcons inside linebacker Paul Worrilow, left, sacks Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
Atlanta Falcons inside linebacker Paul Worrilow, left, sacks Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)

Flacco went 16 for 25 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions — both by Robert Alford. Justin Forsett gained 95 yards on 23 carries.

The victory, combined with Cincinnati's loss to Indianapolis, thrust the Ravens into first place in the AFC North. Baltimore faces the Bengals on the road next Sunday.

"Huge game," Harbaugh said. "We're looking forward to the opportunity."

Ryan completed 29 of 44 passes for 228 yards and lost a fumble. He got little help from a running game that generated only 68 yards.

"We've got to find a way to practice better, to prepare better and ultimately to play better," Ryan said.

After outgaining the Falcons 175-61 in the first half, Baltimore continued the pressure in its opening possession of the third quarter. Flacco connected with Steve Smith for a 49-yard completion to set up a 38-yard field goal by Justin Tucker for a 20-0 lead.

The Ravens then kept the ball on the ground for the most part, content in allowing the defense to protect the advantage.

A first half marred by three turnovers and 10 penalties — including three holding infractions against Baltimore rookie left tackle James Hurst — ended with the Ravens scoring twice in the final 2 minutes, 38 seconds.

Baltimore moved 52 yards for a touchdown on its opening possession with help from the Falcons. Following a 36-yard pass interference call against Alford, tight end Owen Daniels caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.

After going three-and-out on its first two possessions, Atlanta and moved to the Baltimore 17 before Ryan lost a fumble when sacked by McPhee.

Flacco gave it back, lofting a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by Alford.

Late in the half, Baltimore took over at its 41 and Hurst committed another holding penalty. Flacco completed a 19-yarder to Daniels on the next play and added a 20-yard toss to Torrey Smith before Bernard Pierce ran in from the 1.

A fumbled punt by Baltimore's Jacoby Jones gave Atlanta the ball at the Baltimore 37 with 59 seconds to go, but a sack forced the Falcons to try a 57-yard field goal. The kick by Matt Bryant hit the crossbar, and the Ravens quickly moved the other way for a 38-yard field goal on the final play of the half.

Notes: Atlanta C Peter Konz left with a knee injury. He will be examined Monday. ... Ravens long snapper Morgan Cox tore his ACL and is lost for the year. DT Haloti Ngata did the job on final extra point. ... Baltimore was vying for its first shutout since 2009. ... The Ravens are 13-1 at home against NFC foes since the start of the 2008 season.


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PHOTO: Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, left, looks for a receiver as he is pressured in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
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