The Falcons were warned all week not to look past the winless Indianapolis Colts. They saw the Saints lose to the Rams a week ago, and have seen more than their share of upsets this season.
They listened, and it stuck. Sunday in Indy, the team took care of business, putting away with ease the Colts 31-7 to move to 5-3 on the year, a half a game back of the 6-3 Saints in the NFC South.
Matt Ryan led the Falcons with 275 yards and three touchdowns, including two long strikes to Julio Jones. Ryan was 14-for-24 with an interception, but had touchdown passes of 50 and 80 yards to Jones that gave the Falcons a 21-0 lead in the first half.
Jones, who had missed the previous two games with a hamstring injury, caught three passes for 131 yards and scored the first two touchdowns of his NFL career.
Michael Turner rushed for 71 yards and a TD on 19 carries and veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez caught a touchdown pass for the Falcons (5-3), who have won three straight games.
The only points for the Colts (0-9) came on Jerraud Powers’ six-yard interception return for a touchdown.
Curtis Painter struggled under center for the Colts, throwing for 98 yards on 13-of-27 passing and one interception, while Dan Orlovsky was 4-for-6 for 20 yards in relief.
Donald Brown ran for 70 yards on 16 carries and Austin Collie hauled in four passes for 32 yards.
The Colts got the ball to begin the game, but turned it over when Delone Carter fumbled on the second play from scrimmage, giving possession to the Falcons at the 26-yard line.
They took advantage of excellent field position and went 26 yards in five plays before Turner pushed his way into the end zone for a one-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
Late in the opening quarter, Atlanta extended its lead to 14-0 when Ryan hooked up with Jones deep down the middle for a 50-yard touchdown pass. The play was called incomplete, but the Falcons challenged and won.
Early in the second quarter, Atlanta made it 21-0 when Ryan connected with Jones on a quick slant to the right and the receiver out-ran the defense 80 yards to the end zone.
The Colts finally got on the board midway through the second quarter after Ryan took a quick drop and fired a slant pass to the left that was undercut and picked off by Powers, who took it back to make it 21-7.
The Falcons added to their lead late in the third quarter. Ryan led a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ate up 7 1/2 minutes of game time and found Gonzalez wide open in the end zone for a one-yard touchdown strike and a 28-7 lead.
Matt Bryant kicked a 20-yard field goal to account for the final margin with just under five minutes gone in the fourth quarter.