A day after Alabama won the SEC championship by beating Georgia 35-28 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Baltimore Ravens defeated Atlanta 26-16 on the same field with two former Crimson Tide standouts helping stifle the Falcons in the NFL game.
With C.J. Mosley at middle linebacker and Marlon Humphrey at cornerback, the Ravens held Atlanta to 131 yards on Sunday, the fewest for the Falcons since the 1999 season — nine years before Matt Ryan became their quarterback.
Baltimore held another former Alabama standout, Julio Jones, to two receptions for 18 yards — both on the game’s opening series — after the wide receiver had recorded six consecutive 100-yard performances to take the league lead in receiving yards.
Calvin Ridley, yet another Tide alumnus (seven got on the field during Sunday’s game), caught three passes for 22 yards for Atlanta, and the Falcons’ third wide receiver, Mohamed Sanu, caught three passes for 37 yards. The Atlanta trio entered Sunday averaging a combined 225 receiving yards per game.
“They made me a little nervous yesterday,” Humphrey said about Alabama’s victory over Georgia. “But they got it done. Me and C.J. were on the sidelines, and he said something like, ‘It’s going to be the real Tide over here and the real Tide over there,’ talking about Julio and Calvin. We were just joking around, but really good for the Tide and good for the Ravens.”
Humphrey and Jimmy Smith took turns on Jones, who still has 157 more receiving yards than any other player in the NFL this season.
“I think we made a big statement,” Humphrey said coming off the field on Sunday. “Coming to this game, Julio, Calvin, Sanu, I think this was the first team that really had the full receiving set that matched up pretty well with us, along with what we’ve got coming next week, so I felt like it was a big challenge, especially on the secondary, and I think we did well.”
The Falcons capped their first possession with a 44-yard field goal. Atlanta’s offense didn’t score again until getting a touchdown with 4:18 to play. In between, the Falcons’ points came on a 74-yard fumble return for a touchdown by defensive end Vic Beasley.
“Our defensive backs did a great job from the beginning to the end,” Mosley said. “I think we weathered the storm on the first drive and got them to a field goal. The defensive line did a great job of containing the run. Once a defense gets a team one-dimensional, that’s when you can definitely go to work on their offense.”
The Ravens have given up the fewest points and yards in the NFL this season.
“We have a standard as a Ravens defense, whether we’re home, away or at a neutral site, on how we want to play football,” Mosley said, “and that’s always been being physical at the point of attack, stopping the run and getting after the quarterback on third down.”
The Ravens’ third consecutive victory boosted their record to 7-5. After Pittsburgh lost a home game in which it held a 16-point lead for the first time in its history on Sunday night, Baltimore is one-half game behind the Steelers in the AFC North standings.
The Ravens’ remaining schedule features road games against two of the teams ahead of them in the AFC playoff standings — the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday and the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 23 — along with home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 16 and the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 30. Baltimore lost to Cleveland 12-9 in overtime on Oct. 7.
Pittsburgh also has two games against top teams — against the New England Patriots on Dec. 16 and at the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 23 — and two games versus teams with losing records — at the Oakland Raiders on Dec. 9 and against the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 30.
Mark Inabinett is a sports reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter at @AMarkG1.