Falcons Crush Jaguars, 41-14, Improving Playoff Hopes

Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work, John Abraham had 3 ½ sacks and the Falcons clinched a fourth straight winning season with a 41-14 rout of the visiting on Thursday.

“Hopefully, we can play like we did tonight for the next couple weeks,” Ryan said.

This one was over by halftime. Atlanta (9-5) led by 27-0 when the teams trotted to the locker room. Blaine Gabbert and the shellshocked Jaguars (4-10) were saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard, and the Falcons were well on the way to strengthening their hold on an N.F.C. 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.

“It wasn’t just me,” Abraham said. “The whole team was able to get to the quarterback.”

Ryan was 19 of 26 for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a season-high quarterback 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 a truly awful night of running for his life and making bad decisions. He got most of his yards on a meaningless final drive, hitting Chastin West on a 16-yard touchdown with 59 seconds to go. Jacksonville’s other touchdown came on a blocked punt after 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 could not build any momentum toward closing out the season on a high note.

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.

PLAN FOR TEBOW The New England Patriots say they are preparing for the ’ the way they do for any quarterback — by learning what he does well and what he does poorly and taking advantage of that knowledge.

There’s a big problem, though. Tebow is not like any other quarterback. “He’s a very unique person,” said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who played with Tebow at Florida. “He’s a leader.”

Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record in his eight starts since they opened at 1-4. Their 8-5 mark going into Sunday’s home game against the Patriots leads the A.F.C. West.

New England has allowed the most yards in the N.F.L. despite a 10-3 record. The Patriots will have to be disciplined to deal with the scrambling Tebow.

“Anytime you have a quarterback that’s mobile, it definitely is a challenge for a defense,” said Patriots defensive back Nate Jones, a teammate of Tebow’s last season.

BROTHERLY ADVICE Before San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh started his preparation for Steelers week, he had an important phone call to make to learn the ins and outs of how to beat Pittsburgh: to Baltimore’s coach and his big brother, John.

The Ravens have won both of their meetings this season against the Steelers in what has evolved into one of the N.F.L.’s fiercest rivalries. And Monday night’s matchup between San Francisco and Pittsburgh has plenty of meaning to Baltimore, which is tied with the Steelers atop the A.F.C. North standings and trying to win the division.

John Harbaugh asked a team official to make sure he was allowed to help his brother with any insight. “I know for a fact a lot of coaches have spent a lot of time talking about us before they play us,” John Harbaugh said. “So I’m sure we’ll try to help him in some way if we can.”

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