Patriots

Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

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Ryan's 2 TD passes enough as Falcons hold off Seahawks 34-31

SEATTLE - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons did enough through 3 1/2 quarters that even the best comeback attempt by Russell Wilson fell short this time.

A couple of yards short to be exact.

Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, Adrian Clayborn returned a fumble 10 yards for a score and the Falcons watched Blair Walsh's 52-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds fall short, holding off the Seattle Seahawks for a 34-31 win on Monday night.

Atlanta won its second straight to stay on the heels of New Orleans and Carolina in the NFC South, and handed Seattle a second consecutive home loss.

"What an absolute team win from the guys tonight," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "Coming here, in this environment, with the crowd, we thought it would be two competitive, tough teams that were going to battle for it in the biggest way."

Ryan threw TDs to Mohamed Sanu and Levine Toilolo, while Tevin Coleman added a 1-yard TD run on Atlanta's opening possession.

But it was Clayborn's fumble return that helped break the game open early in the second quarter and gave Atlanta a 21-7 lead. He scooped up a loose ball after Wilson was crunched by Takk McKinley and Courtney Upshaw.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. We keep proving we can finish games and beat guys. We have to take the momentum and keep rolling with it," Clayborn said.

With Seattle down 11 points, Wilson hit Doug Baldwin on a 29-yard TD with 3 minutes left and then threw to Jimmy Graham for the two-point conversion. Seattle got the ball back and moved in range for Walsh, whose attempt was on line but landed short of the crossbar.

"That was in our range, and in hindsight I would have just driven it more," Walsh said. "I would have driven it more and not left it short. I was too accurate and didn't have enough on it."

Wilson again was the entirety of Seattle's offense, throwing for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running for another 86 yards and a TD.

But it was an awful night for the Seahawks, filled with more injuries and questionable decisions by coach Pete Carroll. He called for a fake field goal late in the first half rather than attempting a 35-yard kick. He also made a questionable challenge in the fourth quarter that didn't go his way and left Seattle with just one timeout.

That lack of timeouts came back to haunt Seattle on the final drive when seconds ticked away and rather than running one more play, Walsh was sent out to attempt the 52-yard kick. His long for the season is 49 yards.

The conclusion only amplified Carroll's baffling decision at the end of the first half, when Seattle ran a fake field goal rather than having Walsh attempt a 35-yarder that would have pulled Seattle within 24-20. Holder Jon Ryan completed his shovel pass to Luke Willson, but Grady Jarrett read the play and tackled Willson for a 4-yard loss.

Willson said Atlanta's defense on the play was different than what Seattle had seen on film.

"It would have been a really good call if we had made it," Carroll said. "Terrific opportunity right where we wanted it and the defensive tackle made a better play."

Seattle played a game for the first time since the end of the 2010 season without Richard Sherman. His streak of 99 consecutive starts in the regular season was snapped because of a torn Achilles tendon suffered against Arizona. The Seahawks were also without safety Kam Chancellor because of a neck injury, leaving their vaunted secondary with several new faces.

"Those two are phenomenal players. ... It was a lot different," Sanu said. "They did a lot of different things but we just had to take advantage of our routes."

MATTY ICE

Ryan was more than happy to pick on a defense without Sherman and Chancellor. He was 19 of 27 passing for 195 yards and rarely faced pressure. Seattle had one sack, and the Falcons went 9 of 14 on third-down conversions.

Sanu made a great one-handed grab for a 2-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Ryan found Toilolo on a 25-yard TD in the third quarter to give Atlanta a 31-20 lead. Matt Bryant added a 19-yard field goal with 3:49 left to put the Falcons ahead by 11, and Wilson's late heroics weren't enough.

Ryan's streak of 64 straight games passing for at least 200 yards was snapped.

INJURIES

Seattle's injury woes continued. The Seahawks lost rookie cornerback Shaquill Griffin to a concussion on the second play of the game, forcing newly signed veteran Byron Maxwell into a more prominent role than expected.

Early in the second half, promising running back Mike Davis was lost to a groin injury after taking a screen pass 21 yards. Davis had two receptions and had carried six times for 18 yards before getting hurt. Seattle also lost starting guard Oday Aboushi in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury.

Atlanta got a scare when safety Keanu Neal was checked for a concussion in the first half. He was cleared to return.

UP NEXT

Falcons: Host Tampa Bay on Sunday to open a three-game homestand.

Seahawks: Travel to division foe San Francisco on Sunday.

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Former Patriots DE Chris Long announces retirement

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USA Today Sports Images

Former Patriots DE Chris Long announces retirement

Former Patriots defensive end and Super Bowl 51 champion Chris Long announced his retirement on Twitter Saturday night. 

The 11-year veteran had been mulling over the decision for the last four months after his season with the Eagles ended in the NFC's Divisional round against the Saints. 

Long will exit the NFL with two Super Bowl championships, both coming in consecutive years with the Patriots and then the Eagles. In 2016 with the Patriots, Long totaled four sacks, 35 tackles, seven tackles for loss and 10 quarterback hits. He will finish his career with 70 sacks, 85 tackles for loss and 150 quarterback hits.

Another legacy Long leaves will be his philanthropy. He donated an entire seasons worth of game checks to charity in 2017, and then donated a quarter of his salary in 2018 to help local children. Long was named the Walter Payton Man of the Year in February

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This stat should make Patriots fans excited for year two of JC Jackson

This stat should make Patriots fans excited for year two of JC Jackson

As an undrafted free agent coming into the 2018 season, cornerback J.C. Jackson made the most out of his opportunity by earning himself a starting spot on the Patriots' Super Bowl championship defense. 

Jackson will face higher expectations as he heads into his second season in the pros, but the Patriots and their fans should have plenty of reason to be optimistic about the young corner. 

According to Pro Football Focus, Jackson ranked as the top corner in the NFL during the 2018 season in Passer Rating allowed (42.0), which was nearly 18 points higher than second place Avonte Maddox of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Jackson allowed just 22 for 262 yards and zero touchdowns on 42 targets last season. He was also seventh in forced incompletion rate and 12th in the NFL with an 82.4 coverage grade, according to PFF's rankings. 

Jackson is with elite company at the top spot of PFF's Passer Rating allowed, beating out Miami's Xavien Howard, Denver's Chris Harris Jr., and Chicago's Kyle Fuller. The Dolphins just recently made Howard the highest-paid corner in the league. 

But Jackson wasn't the only Patriot to crack the top-10. Stephon Gilmore finished 10th in this category with a 71.8 passer rating allowed. Gilmore experienced the best season of his career in 2018, making First Team All-Pro and making the game-clinching interception in Super Bowl 53. 

A lot of people like to talk about what the Patriots lose each offseason, but after letting Malcolm Butler walk in free agency to the Titans, Bill Belichick seems to have found an ample replacement in Jackson. 

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