Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White is unable to catch a pass in the end zone as he is defended by Baltimore Ravens corner back Chykie Brown during the first half of their NFL preseason game in Baltimore, Md. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
ATLANTA — The Falcons’ stated exhibition-season goal is to reach the real games as healthy as possible.
That plan may have taken a major setback.
The starters turned in a crisp performance while jumping on the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens, but receiver Roddy White suffered an ankle injury in the Falcons’ 27-23 loss. He left the game in the first quarter and did not return Thursday night in front of a crowd of 70,527 at M&T Bank Stadium. According to the Falcons on Friday, White suffered a low-ankle sprain and his status for Atlanta’s next preseason game against the Tennessee Titans is unclear.
White, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who has put up six consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, has started 128 consecutive regular-season games.
Now, the 129th start is in question.
The Falcons’ starting offense had its moments against the Ravens’ starting defense, which is performing without retired star linebacker Ray Lewis.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter was able to get running back Steven Jackson unleashed after he had a meek showing — 8 yards on five carries — in the exhibition opener against the Bengals on Aug. 8.
Jackson ran with authority as he picked up 42 yards on eight carries. He also caught a pass for 13 yards before Jacquizz Rodgers took over.
Also, receiver Julio Jones, who didn’t play against the Bengals, was a force. Jones caught three passes for 55 yards during the Falcons’ third possession. He capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone.
In addition to losing White, the right side of the Falcons’ line struggled at times against the Ravens.
On the Falcons’ second possession of the game, they had to settle for a field goal when Baltimore outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil looped around right tackle Lamar Holmes and forced Matt Ryan to throw an incomplete pass into the ground.
Later in the second quarter on third-and-10 from Baltimore’s 42, right guard Garrett Reynolds was beaten by defensive lineman Chris Canty, who got a hit on Ryan.
Ryan was sharp when given time to throw. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards and one touchdown. He finished with a quarterback rating of 95.7.
The first-team defense was strong against the run, but gave up a 77-yard touchdown pass. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco hit the speedy Torrey Smith in stride on a slant pattern. Smith dodged a tackle attempt by safety William Moore and sped through the secondary for the score.
Cornerback Asante Samuel appeared to hand off coverage of Smith to Moore.
The defense later atoned for the miscue when Samuel returned an interception 33 yards to set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Rodgers to make the score 20-7.
Falcons coach Mike Smith was not happy with the six penalties committed against the Bengals in the exhibition opener, a sluggish 34-10 loss.
On Thursday, the Falcons had two false-start penalties on their first possession of the game. Left tackle Sam Baker and center Peter Konz were called for the penalties.
The Falcons didn’t have another penalty in the first half.
The Falcons, who will welcome the return of tight end Tony Gonzalez to practice Sunday, are set to play their third exhibition game Aug. 24 against the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
Davis shines with second team: Falcons backup quarterback Dominique Davis turned in a much more respectable performance against the Ravens on Thursday night than he did a week earlier.
Davis came on for Ryan in the second quarter and promptly drove the Falcons for a field goal. He led the offense on three scoring drives before Sean Renfree took over late in the third quarter.
Davis stayed under control as he completed 8 of 10 passes for 98 yards and finished with a passer rating of 107.5.
In the exhibition opener against the Bengals on Aug. 8, Davis was 8-of-19 for 78 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He had a passer rating of 49.9.
“Dom got caught in some plays that weren’t the best of plays last week,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said before the game. “Then he’s playing with some other guys who might have made some mistakes that made him look bad. He made one really bad decision on the interception.”
Davis, who has not played in a regular-season NFL game, is trying to nail down the Falcons’ No. 2 quarterback position. He was signed as an undrafted rookie out of East Carolina in 2012 and was the team’s No. 3 quarterback last season.
Worrilow shines: Linebacker Paul Worrilow continued his strong play for the Falcons.
In addition to starting on the front line of the kickoff-return team, Worrilow went in at linebacker with the second unit and continued to make tackles.
He had a fumble recovery nullified in the third quarter when officials ruled that Baltimore receiver Tandon Moss did not have control of a pass before cornerback Robert McClain delivered a big hit.
Who’s hot: Backup cornerback Dominique Franks helped his chances of sticking with the team by intercepting a pass.
Who’s not: Backup cornerback Peyton Thompson was badly beaten in coverage in the fourth quarter as Ravens receiver Aaron Mellette got free for a 40-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Line depth: Backup guard Phillipkeith Manley received some practice snaps at left tackle, but played left guard, his normal position, against the Ravens.
He is one of the players who is cross-training at a new position after making the roster last season.
“I think one of the keys to this is going to be who has more position flexibility,” offensive line coach Pat Hill said. “That’s why they are learning all the different positions.”
The Falcons like to carry only seven linemen on game days and need versatile reserves.
“These guys have got to be sharp,” Hill said. “The guy that can help you at more positions and do more things, a lot of times will have an advantage.
Ravens stunned in first half: The Ravens, who throttled Tampa Bay 44-16 in their exhibition opener, were not happy with their first-half showing against the Falcons.
“That was not us,” Baltimore defensive coordinator Dean Pees said. “That’s not how we play. Our fundamentals were not what they should be.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was not happy trailing 20-7 at halftime.
“That first half was about as poorly as we could play,” Harbaugh said. “I can’t remember us playing worse since we came here.”
Georgia connections: The Ravens have nine players on their roster with Georgia connections.
Running back Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech), wide receiver Marlon Brown (Georgia), offensive guard Ramon Harewood (Morehouse), linebacker Daryl Smith (Georgia Tech), defensive end DeAngelo Tyson (Georgia), linebacker Meshak Williams (Kansas State, Worth County High), safety Brynden Trawick (Troy, Sprayberry High), wide receiver Rashaad Carter (Tusculum, Stephenson High) and Bobby Rainey (Western Kentucky, Griffin High).
Smith, who is taking over for Ray Lewis at inside linebacker for the Ravens, had six tackles in the first half and a pass breakup.
Etc.: Tight end Tony Gonzalez (family leave), linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (finger), fullback Bradie Ewing (undisclosed injury) and running back Jason Snelling (undisclosed injury) did not dress for the game. … Gonzalez is scheduled to return to practice Sunday.