Turnovers burst Bolts' bubble vs Falcons, 27-3

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 23, 2012
For one afternoon, anyway, the San Diego Chargers looked suspiciously like they did last year. The Chargers had four costly turnovers in a 27-3 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, with the giveaways quickly turning a showdown of undefeated teams into a one-sided fight. Matt Ryan threw touchdown passes to three different receivers and safety Thomas DeCoud had two interceptions and a fumble recovery for the Falcons, who overwhelmed the Chargers 27-3 Sunday. Rivers was intercepted twice, Ryan Mathews' fumbling problems returned in his season debut as he put the ball on the ground, and Dante Rosario also lost a fumble, after making a catch in the fourth quarter. San Diego, which has missed the playoffs the last two seasons, was undone last year by turnovers. Rivers had 25, including 20 interceptions. He's been picked off three times this season. ''I knew we would have to play awfully well to win the game,'' San Diego coach Norv Turner said. ''We didn't play the way we are capable of playing. It shows me how much work we have to do.'' Not only did the Falcons (3-0) improve to 6-0 all-time in San Diego, but they've opened the season with three straight wins against AFC West teams. Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 275 yards, with his first interception of the season, and a passer rating of 107.8. DeCoud's three takeaways, plus William Moore's fourth-quarter fumble recovery, extended the Falcons' NFL-high turnover differential to plus-10. With Philip Rivers having one of his worst statistical performances, the Chargers dropped to 2-1. Rivers was 21 of 38 for 173 yards, with two picks and a QB rating of 45.2. Ryan led two impressive drives in the first half as the Falcons took control, throwing touchdown passes of 8 yards to Jacquizz Rodgers and 7 to Tony Gonzalez. Given a short field after a turnover, Ryan threw a 9-yard TD pass to Julio Jones. Ryan led a precise opening drive, moving the Falcons 80 yards without having a third down. He found Rodgers on an 8-yard scoring pass. The PAT failed due to a bad snap. Ryan Mathews made his season debut for San Diego and looked good until fumbling inside the Falcons' 5-yard line on a hit by Sean Witherspoon, with DeCoud recovering at the Atlanta 4. Ryan was sacked by Antwan Barnes at the Atlanta 1 on the drive's third play but was bailed out on a holding call against San Diego safety Atari Bigby, giving the Falcons a first down on the 14. The Falcons converted four more third downs on the drive before Ryan hit Gonzalez for a 7-yard score to make it 13-0. Fond of slamming the ball over the crossbar after scores, Gonzalez, a former college basketball player at Cal, stopped and popped a jump shot instead. The Falcons got the ball back with 1:53 before halftime when DeCoud intercepted Rivers along the right sideline. The call originally was ruled an incomplete pass but overturned after a review, giving Atlanta the ball on the San Diego 29. Four plays later, Ryan threw a 9-yard TD pass to Julio Jones for a 20-0 lead. ''Those two turnovers in that sequence, they killed us,'' Rivers said. ''We just weren't ourselves today,'' Chargers tight end Antonio Gates said. ''We had way too many turnovers and dropped passes. We knew this team coming in here was good, and they just outplayed us today. ... We came out and made some plays early, but the turnovers, those are backbreakers. You're giving a potent offense a short field, and they made the most out of it.'' Jones hurt a hand when hit by safety Eric Weddle at the end of a 19-yard reception on the game's first play from scrimmage. He returned in the second quarter. DeCoud made a diving interception of a pass intended for Antonio Gates late in the third quarter. Rivers, flat on his back, put his hands on his head in disgust and briefly had words with coach Norv Turner on the sideline. Ryan had Atlanta's first turnover of the season when he was intercepted by Antoine Cason at the goal line early in the fourth quarter. Michael Turner, who was with the Chargers from 2004-07, scored on a 7-yard run midway through the fourth quarter. He was arrested on a DUI charge hours after the Falcons beat Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 27-21 on Monday night. San Diego's Nate Kaeding kicked a 41-yard field in the third quarter. Mathews had 10 carries for 44 yards. NOTES: It was San Diego's lowest home output since a 31-3 loss to Green Bay on Oct. 24, 1999. ... After scoring, Michael Turner flipped the ball and posed like LaDainian Tomlinson during his Chargers career. ''That was for L.T.,'' said Turner, Tomlinson's former understudy. ''I know he was probably watching the game. Gave him a little love there.'' --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
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