Ryan Throws 4 TDs, Falcons Rally Past Eagles 35-31

This is Matt Ryan’s house now.

Ryan tossed a career-high four touchdown passes, shaking off all the hoopla over Vick coming back to face his old team as Philadelphia’s starter, and rallied Atlanta from a 10-point deficit for a 35-31 victory over the Eagles in a Sunday night thriller.

Vick wasn’t around for the end, wobbling to the locker room with a concussion late in the third quarter.

Matty Ice was there to the end, celebrating a comeback win.

“He is a guy who will never give up,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “When you have a guy like that leading your football, it’s going to pay dividends in the long run.”

It sure did on this night.

Two of Ryan’s TD throws went to ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez, who went past Terrell Owens into the fifth spot on the NFL’s career receiving list. Then, Ryan hooked up with Ovie Mughelli on a 1-yard score that brought Atlanta to 31-28 with just under 11 minutes remaining.

The Falcons (1-1) completed the comeback with Michael Turner breaking off a 61-yard run, then powering over from the 3 with 4:48 remaining. Turner finished with 114 yards on 21 carries.

“It was a wild one, for sure, but we hung in there,” Ryan said.

Vick threw for a pair of touchdowns for the Eagles (1-1) but couldn’t go on after getting spun by a Falcons rusher into one of his own players, right tackle Todd Herremans. No. 7 staggered to the sideline and Mike Kafka came in for the first game of his two-year career.

Vince Young, normally the backup, was inactive because of a hamstring injury. Now, the Eagles have to worry about Vick’s health, though he was cleared to travel with the team back to Philadelphia.

“I know Mike is upset,” Kafka said. “When you’re hit like that, you can’t do anything about it. It’s out of his control.”

Kafka did a good job in a tough situation, guiding the Eagles down the field on a potentially winning drive in the closing minutes. But on fourth down from Atlanta’s 22, Jeremy Maclin dropped a pass over the middle that would have kept it going.

The buildup for the prime-time contest was one of the biggest in years for a regular-season game in Atlanta. Many fans in the sellout crowd wore Vick’s old No. 7 jersey from his Falcons days, but plenty broke out Ryan’s No. 2.

In some ways, it seemed like a head-to-head matchup — even though they were never on the field at the same time. Vick was the one-of-a-kind quarterback who put the Falcons on the NFL map before he was caught running a operation, sending him to prison.

Banished by the Falcons, he revitalized his career in Philadelphia and took over as the starter last season. He returned to Atlanta once before, as a backup in 2009, but this was different.

“I feel for him,” Maclin said. “Obviously, he wanted to come home and make a statement.”

Ryan insisted that he never paid much attention to the other team’s quarterback. He’s already led the Falcons to a pair of playoff appearances, making it much easier for Vick’s fans to move on.

“Not being here when he was here, not playing with him,” Ryan said, “I couldn’t allow myself to get caught up in those things.”

They even gave each other a hug in the center of the field after both came out as captains for the coin toss.

“Hopefully he’s OK,” Ryan said. “You never like to see anybody go down.”

Vick has said before the game that he wouldn’t make any Deion Sanders-like pronouncements about the Georgia Dome being “my house.” He certainly couldn’t after fumbling twice and throwing an interception, the Falcons turning two of those mistakes into touchdowns.

Still, Vick had seemingly done enough before he wobbled off. Kafka came on and handed off to LeSean McCoy, who scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run with 1:59 left in the third quarter. McCoy had 95 yards on 18 carries.

But Ryan and the Falcons hung in there, even though the quarterback was sacked four more times after taking five in a 30-12 loss at Chicago to open the season.

“You just keep getting up,” Ryan said. “There’s a lot of tough guys on this football team and I try and stay in line with those guys and just keep bouncing up.”

There were plenty of big hits, most notably a shot by Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson on an Eagles receiver for the second year in a row. Last year, Robinson knocked out himself and DeSean Jackson with a brutal collision. This time, the defensive back leveled Maclin with a shot that drew a flag for slamming into a defenseless player with a helmet-first shot in the third quarter.

Smith disputed it was illegal hit, saying “that’s the way we teach it,” but the NFL could dole out a suspension after it reviews the play. Maclin went to the sideline to be checked but wasn’t out for long. Robinson insisted he did nothing wrong.

“It definitely wasn’t a dirty hit,” the cornerback said. “I’m not a dirty player.”

Gonzalez’s first TD catch was a thing of beauty — perhaps one of the best he’s ever made. In the back of the end zone, he reached up to snare the ball with his right hand and brought it down to his body just as he dragged a second foot inbounds

“I knew I had the catch,” said Gonzalez, who now has 1,081 career receptions. “I didn’t know if I had the feet down.”

Vick completed 19 of 28 for 242 yards, also going to Maclin on a 5-yard touchdown. In addition, the quarterback ran six times for 25 yards.

It wasn’t enough.

He’s just a visitor now.


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N.F.L. to Fine 3 Players for Helmet-to-Helmet Hits

The N.F.L. wants to give players and teams fair warning that it plans to ratchet up discipline for violations of players’ safety rules, the league spokesman Greg Aiello said. Players, coaches and teams will be told Wednesday that future disciplinary actions will be harsher, setting the stage for possible suspensions.

, the linebacker who knocked two out of their game with helmet-to-helmet hits — one was within the rules; the other was a penalty the officials missed, the league said — was fined the most, $75,000, because of previous trouble. Earlier this season, he was fined $5,000 for slamming quarterback Vince Young to the ground while sacking him.

Harrison and his coach, Mike Tomlin, insisted Harrison’s hits were clean and that he should not be fined. Before the fines were announced, Tomlin stood by his remarks, but said he supported harsher penalties and rules changes to ensure player safety.

“I think it is the proper initiative that the N.F.L. has,” Tomlin said. “I think we need to safeguard the men that play this game to the best of our abilities and make it as safe as we can. I’m a proponent of player safety and whatever rule or rule adjustments we need to make to make it safer.”

safety , who committed the most egregious foul when he launched himself into tight end Todd Heap as Heap tried to make a catch, was fined $50,000. And Atlanta Falcons cornerback , who hit receiver DeSean Jackson so violently that both were concussed, was fined $50,000.

In a letter to each of the players, Ray Anderson, the N.F.L.’s executive vice president for football operations, warned that “future offenses will result in an escalation of fines up to and including suspension.”

The failure to suspend players retroactively after one of the N.F.L.’s most troubling days raised the question of whether the league had talked tougher than it was prepared to immediately act.

On Monday, Anderson noted that some players considered fines the cost of doing business and that only suspensions — even for first offenders — were likely to deliver the message that helmet-to-helmet hits would not be tolerated.

The N.F.L. has suspended players for hits without warning. In 2008, safety Eric Smith was suspended a game for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Anquan Boldin. Smith was one of two players suspended that year. In 2009, one player, defensive back Dante Wesley, was suspended. None have been suspended this season.

Aiello said the desire to warn players of increased discipline first was “because the overall level of discipline for these violations is being increased and suspensions will be more likely if these violations continue.”

The reaction to the fines was swift and offered a look at why the N.F.L. will have to battle some of its players in an effort to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits. linebacker Aaron Curry called the fines “absolutely crazy” on his feed Tuesday, and he took exception to the fine for Harrison. “His hit happen every play!” Curry wrote. “He jus happen to knock somebody out!”

Earlier Tuesday, Patriots Coach raised an issue that also complicates the N.F.L.’s crackdown — the inconsistency of officiating. Harrison’s hit on Browns receiver Mohamed Massoquoi was a foul, Anderson said Monday, but it was not flagged.

“You just have to understand how the game is being officiated and what the calls mean — what’s a block in the back, what isn’t a block in the back; what’s illegal contact, what isn’t illegal contact, what’s pass interference, what isn’t pass interference, what’s holding, what isn’t holding,” Belichick said. “There are a lot of gray areas in all those calls, so we have to learn what those are and hope that the officials call them consistently from week to week, which, that’s an issue, too.”

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Bills Storm Back to Beat Bengals

Angry at the officials for giving host Cincinnati another play to kick a field goal. Angry at themselves for getting in such a big hole in front of such a small crowd.

Angry enough to pull off their best comeback in 13 years.

Ryan Fitzpatrick matched his career high with four touchdown passes, and the Bills rallied for their second straight win, 49-31 over the bumbling on Sunday.

“We could’ve easily folded our tent,” said cornerback Drayton Florence, who returned a fumble 27 yards for a touchdown during the comeback. “It looked like they folded their tents.”

Buffalo (2-8) took advantage of Cincinnati’s depleted secondary for its biggest comeback since it overcame a 26-0 deficit and beat the , 37-35, on Sept. 21, 1997. The turning point came at the end of the first half, when the clock ran out but the officials ruled Cincinnati had called timeout with one second left.

The Bengals (2-8) used that restored second to kick a field goal for a 17-point cushion. But Fitzpatrick and Buffalo took advantage of a defense down to four healthy defensive backs by game’s end. Steve Johnson caught three of Fitzpatrick’s touchdown passes, including an 11-yarder that put Buffalo ahead, 35-31, early in the fourth quarter.

“We are terrible,” receiver said. “And I don’t blame the fans for booing us. I don’t blame people for not wanting to come and see the performance we’ve put up” in the last seven games.

Win in Overtime

Graham Gano kicked a 48-yard field goal in overtime as the Redskins kept their faint playoff hopes alive with a 19-16 victory over the , who self-destructed so thoroughly on their home field that the fans booed repeatedly and Vince Young left without speaking with reporters after being knocked out of the game with an injured thumb. Young was 12 of 16 for 165 yards but left after his hand slammed into a helmet while completing a pass. Coach Jeff Fisher said Young, who threw his jersey and his shoulder pads into the stands as he left the field, had a torn flexor tendon in his right thumb that may need season-ending surgery. Either way, Fisher said the rookie Rusty Smith was now Tennessee’s starter. Young wrote on three hours later that he was fine and “sorry to my teammates.” He then tweeted, “Just want to play.”

Wins for A.F.C. Leaders

After spotting the visiting a 3-0 lead, threw three touchdown passes and ran for a fourth as the rolled at home, 35-3. The Steelers (7-3) made Oakland (5-5) one-dimensional by limiting Darren McFadden to 14 yards on 10 carries. Richard Seymour, long one of the league’s top defensive players, displayed Oakland’s frustration by punching Roethlisberger in the face as Roethlisberger celebrated a touchdown pass late in the second quarter. Seymour was ejected.

¶Dwayne Bowe caught two touchdown passes to help the remain unbeaten at home with a 31-13 victory over the fading Cardinals. Bowe set a team record with at least one score in six straight games; he has 563 yards receiving and 10 touchdown catches during the span. Kansas City (6-4) took sole possession of first place in the A.F.C. West. The Cardinals (3-7) lost their fifth straight.

Win Again

The Cowboys beat the visiting , 35-19, after Jon Kitna put the game away by throwing two short touchdown passes to Miles Austin and surprising everyone with a 29-yard touchdown run, the longest of his 14-year career. The win was the second straight, and the first at home this season, for Dallas (3-7) since Jason Garrett replaced Wade Phillips as coach. The Lions (2-8) lost their 26th straight on the road.

¶Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes — three to Greg Jennings — as the beat the host , 31-3. threw his 17th interception and looked ready for retirement, with six seemingly meaningless games left for Minnesota (3-7) in the epilogue of his 20-year career. “This has got me at a loss for words,” he said. The Packers (7-3) kept pace in the N.F.C. North race with the Bears (7-3).

In Other Games

Maurice Jones-Drew followed a 75-yard reception with a 1-yard touchdown dive, and the host Jaguars overcame six turnovers to beat the banged-up , 24-20. Jones-Drew broke four tackles on a screen pass from David Garrard and weaved his way toward the end zone, with the rookie Joe Haden making a touchdown-saving tackle that ended up taking precious seconds off the clock. Jones-Drew scored two plays later, with 1 minute 16 seconds left.

¶Matt Ryan threw two scoring passes and directed an offense so dominant that three St. Louis defenders left with cramps in the Falcons’ 34-17 win over the host .

¶Marques Colston and Robert Meachem each caught two touchdown passes from in the ’ 34-19 win over the visiting . New Orleans (7-3) remained one game behind Atlanta in the N.F.C. South.

¶Baltimore’s defense returned consecutive interceptions for touchdowns in the fourth quarter and Joe Flacco threw for 301 yards as the visiting beat the , 37-13. The Ravens (7-3) finally rattled Carolina’s fill-in quarterback, Brian St. Pierre, to break it open. St. Pierre was given the starting job by Carolina (1-9) after Matt Moore (shoulder) and Jimmy Clausen (concussion) were hurt.

¶Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes and the Buccaneers beat the stagnant , 21-0, for their first win at Candlestick Park since 1980. Tampa Bay is 7-3; San Francisco dropped to 3-7.

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