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(Sunday, September 20th)
Final Score: Atlanta 28, Carolina 20
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes and Michael Turner added 105 yards with a score on the ground, as the Atlanta Falcons claimed their second win of the young season with a 28-20 victory over NFC South rival Carolina at the Georgia Dome.
Ryan, who threw for a pair of touchdowns in last week's season-opening win against Miami, completed 21-of-27 passes this week for 220 yards with an interception.
"The game was a typical NFC game between two very physical football teams and we knew that coming in," said Atlanta coach Mike Smith. "Offensively we were able to set out what we wanted to do in the second half. Ryan threw the ball very well and he was distributing it well."
Tony Gonzalez had a touchdown catch last week in his Atlanta debut and this Sunday hauled in seven passes for 71 yards with another score for the Falcons (2-0), who have won their first two games for the first time since 2006 and are trying to record back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history.
"He is one of the greatest tight ends of all-time," said Ryan about Gonzalez. "That was a big pickup for us. He provides big plays for us when we need them. I have enjoyed playing with him so far."
Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme, after throwing four interceptions and taking a seat on the bench in last week's loss to Philadelphia, was picked off just once Sunday, but it came late in the fourth with the Panthers trying to tie the game. He connected on 25-of-41 throws for 308 yards with a touchdown, as the Panthers (0-2) dropped their first two games for the first time since 2006.
"It couldn't have been any worse than last week," Delhomme said. "I felt good out there today. Last week I put too much pressure on myself. This week I got back to being just plain Jake."
The Panthers trailed 28-13 before Delhomme found Dante Rosario with an 11-yard scoring pass to make it a one possession game with 6:45 to play. Carolina's defense forced a three-and-out and Delhomme moved the offense back into Atlanta territory.
A 23-yard pass to Steve Smith on 3rd-and-3 from midfield gave the Panthers a first down at the Atlanta 27 with just under 3 1/2 minutes left. Jonathan Stewart then recovered his own fumble on a rush, setting up a first down at the 17.
Delhomme misfired on his next three passes then tried to hit Smith along the left sideline, but Chris Houston stepped in front and picked it off inside the five-yard line with 2:37 to play.
The Panthers got the ball one last time with 30 seconds left and Delhomme completed four passes before a desperation heave to the end zone fell incomplete as time expired.
"There's no consolation prize in this league," Panthers head coach John Fox said. "We didn't make great strides from a week ago. There are no cupcakes in this league. We have our work cut out for us."
Smith caught eight passes for 131 yards in defeat and appeared in injure his ankle during the contest. He was first hurt on a Hail Mary pass at the conclusion of the first half, but returned and limped off the field again in the fourth quarter. He was able to finish the game.
DeAngelo Williams ran for 79 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for Carolina, which outgained Atlanta 440-371.
Carolina grabbed a 3-0 lead when John Kasay capped the first series of the game with a 38-yard field goal.
Ryan led the Falcons back several series later, hitting Jenkins with a 24-yard pass and, after an offside penalty, Gonzalez for a 24-yard score to make it 7-3 with 37 seconds left in the opening quarter.
Carolina answered with an 80-yard drive to move back in front early in the second. Smith hauled in a 28-yard pass to put the Panthers in Atlanta territory and Stewart added a 28-yard run before Williams used a stiff-arm to go three yards for the score.
Back came Atlanta with its own 80-yard drive. Ryan converted a trio of third downs during the 14-play march, including a 27-yard connection with Marty Booker and a nine-yard toss to Gonzalez that was first ruled incomplete and overturned by replay. Ryan soon after found Jason Snelling from 10 yards away for a 14-10 edge.
Kasay drilled a 50-yard field goal to pull the Panthers within one with just 1:49 left in the half, but the Falcons got a 41-yard kickoff return from Eric Weems and Ryan connected with Roddy White for a 21-13 margin just 50 seconds before the break.
Atlanta took the second-half kickoff and marched from its own 20 to the Carolina 13 before Turner coughed up the ball. The Panthers, though, gave it right back a few minutes later when Williams was hit by Mike Peterson and fumbled near midfield.
The Falcons then drove 47 yards for another touchdown. A sneak by Ryan on 4th- and-1 at the Carolina 21 set up a first down and a pass interference penalty in the end zone on a third-down incompletion gave Atlanta life. Turner scored soon after from the one to make it 28-13 game with 12:23 left in the contest.
Delhomme then engineered an 80-yard drive that ended with his TD toss to Rosario to pull Carolina within eight.
Peterson, who picked off a pass last week in his Falcons debut, had nine tackles on Sunday...Smith notched his sixth straight 100-yard receiving game against an NFC South foe...Carolina linebacker Na'il Diggs left the contest in the first half with a rib injury...Atlanta's Jerious Norwood appeared to suffer a head injury and Falcons defensive lineman Peria Jerry was carted off the field in the fourth quarter...The Falcons play on the road for the first time next Sunday at New England, while the Panthers visit Dallas next Monday.
09/20 20:25:51 ET