Jets' playoff hopes dim with loss to Falcons
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- The Atlanta Falcons' offense kept stalling in the cold of the Meadowlands until finally busting through the New York Jets' top-ranked defense at the end.
Tony Gonzalez caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan on a fourth-down play with 1:38 remaining to lift the Falcons to a 10-7 victory on a Sunday.
A day after the Falcons (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention, they likely also ended the chances for the stunned Jets (7-7), whose three-game winning streak was stopped.
Ryan, starting after missing two games with a toe injury, drove Atlanta downfield for the win at a cold, windy and half-filled Meadowlands. Frustrated Jets fans in the upper deck tossed snow, the remnants of a major snowstorm in the Northeast, and booed loudly after the score.
The Falcons, eliminated from playoff contention with Dallas' victory over New Orleans on Saturday night, are still in contention to post back-to-back winning records for the first time in their 44-year history.
On third-and-9 from their 42, Roddy White had a 16-yard catch and the Falcons moved up 15 more yards on a facemask penalty on Donald Strickland. Jason Snelling followed with a 20-yard run up the middle to the 7. After Snelling's 1-yard run, Ryan was incomplete to White in the end zone, and again to Gonzalez on a pass that was nearly picked off by Darrelle Revis.
With the game on the line, Ryan found Gonzalez at the front of the end zone for the go-ahead score. It was another late-game touchdown allowed by New York, which blew late leads against Miami twice and Jacksonville earlier this season.
The Jets could've put the game out of reach, but the offense mustered little other than Braylon Edwards' 65-yard touchdown catch. Jay Feely missed a field goal on a high snap, had another blocked, and Kellen Clemens mishandled the snap on another. Mark Sanchez, starting after missing a game with a sprained right knee, also threw three interceptions, including the game-sealing pick by Brent Grimes.
Ryan finished 16 for 34 for 152 yards and the TD to Gonzalez, while Sanchez was 18 for 32 for 226 yards.
New York got on the scoreboard early as James Ihedigbo tipped Michael Koenen's punt that went 28 yards before it was downed at the Falcons 35. On the Jets' next play, Sanchez reared back and fired a pretty pass that hit Edwards in stride at the 15. Edwards -- a few steps ahead of Christopher Owens -- zipped into the end zone for a 7-3 lead with 2:48 left in the opening quarter and set off a snow-tossing celebration by the fans in the upper-deck seats.
The Jets had a chance to increase their lead with a 19-yard field goal with 6:40 left in the half, but Clemens mishandled a low snap and Feely never had a chance to kick.
The Jets wasted another scoring opportunity when Feely was wide right on a 38-yard attempt as time expired in the first half.
Atlanta failed to make it a one-point game when Matt Bryant was wide left on a 48-yard attempt with 10:10 remaining.
Looking to make it 10-3, Feely's 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Chauncey Davis with 4:27 left, keeping Atlanta in it.
Sanchez's first pass in his return was picked off by Thomas DeCoud on the Jets' third offensive play. The rookie tried to connect with Jerricho Cotchery in double coverage, but DeCoud stepped in front of the pass, juggled it for a second and held on.
After a 15-yard pass to Gonzalez put the ball at the 1, the Jets' top-ranked defense stiffened and the Falcons settled for a 24-yard field goal.