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 wide receiver Roddy White suffered an ankle injury. 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.
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, wide receiver Julio Jones, who didn’t played 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.