Falcons hold off Rams for first win

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 15, 2013
One after another, a steady line of injured players made their way to the Falcons locker room. Fortunately for Atlanta, Julio Jones and Matt Ryan were not among them. Jones hauled in 11 passes for 182 yards, including an 81-yard touchdown, and the Atlanta Falcons held on for their first win of the season, 31-24 over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. Ryan threw for 374 yards and two scores despite taking quite a beating behind the Falcons' shaky offense line. Jason Snelling clinched it for the Falcons (1-1) with an 11-yard touchdown run with 6:18 remaining - Atlanta's longest play of the day on the ground. The Rams (1-1) fell behind 21-0 when Osi Umenyiora returned an interception 68 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Atlanta led 24-3 at halftime before St Louis fought back on a pair of short touchdown passes by Sam Bradford. Bradford finished with 352 yards and three TDs. Jones matched the best performance of his career; he also put up 182 yards receiving in last season's NFC championship game. Atlanta turned in the drive it needed to clinch it, throwing on eight straight plays before Snelling's TD run. St. Louis scored again with 2:09 left when Bradford connected with Tavon Austin for their second scoring play of the game. But the Falcons got the one first down required to run out the clock. There were plenty of flaws in Atlanta's performance - hardly any running game, a lack of protection for Ryan, not much pressure on Bradford - but the Falcons will take it considering all the players who went down. Steven Jackson, facing the team he played for the last nine years, hauled in an 8-yard touchdown pass to cap Atlanta's first possession, but the celebration was short-lived. Jackson hobbled off with an injured thigh and didn't return. He had a lot of company in the training room. Fullback Bradie Ewing also went down on the opening drive with a shoulder injury. Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (foot), defensive end Kroy Biermann (right ankle) and cornerback Asante Samuel (thigh) were done by halftime. Still, the Falcons pulled out a victory they absolutely had to have if they wanted to show they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender. After Jackson's TD put the Falcons up 7-0, Jones beat Janoris Jenkins in man-to-man coverage and was gone for the longest reception of his career. Umenyiora extended the lead when he picked off a deflected pass and showed surprising speed for the first TD of his 11-year career. He then staggered to the bench and grabbed an oxygen mask. The Rams began really teeing off on Ryan in the second half, and the Falcons offense bogged down. Austin hauled in a 6-yard scoring pass from Bradford late in the third, and Austin Pettis' 3-yard TD catch made it 24-17 with more than 12 minutes remaining. Atlanta turned to Jones to clinch it. He hauled in a short pass and broke free on a 22-yard play. Then, on third-and-3 at the Rams 40, Ryan rolled to his left away from pressure and lobbed a pass that Jones leaped up to grab for an 18-yard gain. Three players later, Snelling ran it in.
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