NFL: Falcons 41, Jaguars 14
ATLANTA ó The Atlanta Falcons had been waiting all season for a complete game.
They finally got it.
Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work, John Abraham had 31/2 sacks and the Falcons clinched a fourth straight winning season with a 41-14 rout of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday.
ěHopefully we can play like we did tonight for the next couple weeks,î Ryan said.
This one was over by halftime. Atlanta (9-5) led 27-0 when the teams trotted to the locker room, Blaine Gabbert and the shellshocked Jaguars (4-10) saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard, the Falcons well on the way to strengthening their hold on an NFC wild-card spot.
Gabbert had one of his worst games in a miserable rookie season, coughing up the ball twice on hits by Abraham. Both fumbles led to Atlanta scores, with defensive tackle Corey Peters scooping up the second one and trotting to the end zone early in the third quarter for a touchdown that ended any thought of the Jaguars getting back in the game.
ěIt wasnít just me,î Abraham said. ěThe whole team was able to get to the quarterback.î
Ryan was 19 of 26 for 224 yards and three touchdowns, with a season-high rating of 137.3. Roddy White caught two of the scoring passes, Julio Jones the other.
Gabbert was 12 of 22 for 141 yards, also throwing an interception to cap off a truly awful night spent of bad decisions when he wasnít running for his life. He got most of his yards on a meaningless final drive, hitting Chastin West on a 16-yard touchdown with 59 seconds remaining. Jacksonvilleís other touchdown came on a blocked punt trailing 41-0.
The injury-riddled Jaguars, playing out the season with an interim coach and a new owner, were coming off their best game of the season, having scored 41 straight points in a 41-14 victory over Tampa Bay. But, playing their third game in 11 days, they couldnít build any momentum to close out the season strong.
Instead, Shahid Khan must have been wondering why he paid an estimated $760 million to buy the team from original Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver, a deal that was unanimously approved by NFL owners a day earlier.
Michael Turner burst off left guard for 15 yards on the first play of the game, and the Falcons were off and running. Ryan capped the opening drive by stepping up to avoid the pressure, flipping a short pass to Jones, then watching the rookie turn on an impressive burst of speed for a 29-yard touchdown.
Gabbert got an idea of what heíd be up against on his first snap: Abraham shrugged off a blocker and threw the quarterback for a 10-yard loss. The rookie finally completed a pass on the final play of the opening quarter, but Sean Weatherspoon read out the screen and slammed Marcedes Lewis for a 4-yard loss.
Matt Bryant kicked a 33-yard field goal that made it 10-0, then another brutal mistake by the Jaguars early in the second quarter helped turn this one into a rout. Jarrett Dillard let a punt slip right through his hands, and Weatherspoon fell on it at the Jacksonville 5. The next play, Michael Turner rumbled into the end zone standing to make it 17-0.
The Falcons werenít done, not by a long shot. Ryan capped a nine-play, 72-yard by hooking up with White in the back on the end zone on a 6-yard touchdown, a pass that Tony Gonzalez was nearly in position to catch as well.
Now down 24-0, the Jaguars couldnít even get off the field without turning it over again. Abraham popped the ball loose from Gabbert, and after a wild scramble Curtis Lofton finally fell on it at the Jaguars 19. That set up Bryantís second field goal, a 31-yarder on the final play of the half.
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The Associated Press