Falcons coach Mike Smith’s loss in his return to Jacksonville was overshadowed by the promise of quarterback Matt Ryan’s debut in the Jaguars 20-17 win over Atlanta Saturday night. Ryan looked confident in his start despite two fumbles, throwing for 113 yards and a touchdown in the first half.
The Jaguars scored first late in the first quarter when David Garrard (4/10, 44 yards) ran 1-yard up the middle on a drive that included a 21-yard run by the quarterback. Former Dolphin quarterback Cleo Lemon (6/10, 46 yards) was ineffective. Kicker Josh Scobee hit from 37 yards to take the lead near the end of the second quarter. Jacksonville showed that they are still adept at running the ball with 83 total yards rushing in the first half. Receivers Matt Jones and Mike Walker had 37 on 3 catches and 18 yards on 2 catches respectively.
Falcons quarterback Chris Redman (3/6, 13 yards) started and was unimpressive for most of the first quarter, including an interception while throwing deep into double coverage. Michael Turner looked good in his start with the Falcons rushing for 22 yards on 5 attempts, the longest a 9 yard gain. Matt Ryan (9/15, 113 yards) appeared to have found his receiver in Roddy White, throwing a 25-yard touchdown on his first drive in the NFL. Ryan fumbled twice in the second quarter but did not lose either one. With 1 minute to go in the first half, Atlanta was able to strip the ball on a kickoff but was unable to capitalize when kicker Jason Elam missed a 49-yard attempt.
Jacksonville spent the first half of the third quarter driving down the field with the help of rookie Chauncey Washington who ran two yards into the end zone for a touchdown. Todd Bouman (5/10, 44 yards) took a while to get in a rhythm but finally drove down the field allowing Scobee to hit again from 25 yards.
Joey Harrington (5/7, 64 yards) started for Atlanta midway through the third. A fumble by the Jaguars with five minutes to go in the quarter led to redemption for Elam with a 36-yard field goal. Harrington threw a short pass to Jason Snelling who turned it into a 47-yard gain, leading Harrington to run up the middle a few plays later for the touchdown. D.J. Shockley (4/15, 63 yards) took over in the fourth but Elam missed again on a 53-yard attempt late in the quarter. Shockley drove down the field the last two minutes of the game but the ball was intercepted in the end zone with 12 seconds left.