Oct 23, 2021; Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA;  San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) throws a pass during the first quarter against the Air Force Falcons at Falcon Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Leyba-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 San Diego State outlasts Air Force

No. 22 San Diego State took advantage of two early turnovers and built enough of a cushion to hold off host Air Force for a 20-14 victory on Saturday night in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The Aztecs (7-0, 3-0 Mountain West) built a 20-0 lead shortly after halftime and prevailed despite totaling only 229 yards of total offense. A Dallas Branch interception and Noah Avinger’s fumble recovery led to the first two scores.

San Diego State is off to its best start since 1975.

Air Force (6-2, 3-2) had its three-game winning streak snapped.

San Diego State, which entered the game with the top-ranked run defense in the nation (61.5 rushing yards per game) held the Falcons’ potent triple-option running attack to only 89 yards on the ground in the first half and 87 overall. Air Force entered the game averaging 336.4 rushing yards per game.

Air Force came storming back in the fourth quarter. Backup quarterback Warren Bryan led the Falcons back after starting quarterback Haaziq Daniels was knocked out of the game with an injury with 6:04 left in the third quarter.

Bryan entered and finished an 11-play, 57-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Dalton King to give Air Force its first points.

After forcing a punt on its next defensive series, Air Force used another methodical drive (15 plays, 89 yards in 6:33) to cut San Diego State’s lead to 20-14 with 3:59 left on Dane Kinamon’s 3-yard touchdown on a sweep.

San Diego State again was forced to punt and totaled only 49 yards in the fourth quarter.

Aztecs punter Matt Araiza, who had an 81-yard punt earlier in the game, booted a 56-yard punt to pin Air Force back at its own 13. The Falcons appeared to convert on fourth-and-7 from their own 16 with a Bryan completion to Brandon Lewis, but a chop block penalty nullified the play.

The Falcons elected to punt with 1:57 left and two timeouts remaining.

San Diego State ran out the clock, converting a first down on a 9-yard run by Kaegun Williams. Williams and Chance Bell each scored rushing touchdowns for the Aztecs as five rushers combined for 157 yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 10, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts after an NFL International Series game against the New York Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Falcons defeated the Jets 27-20. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons eye .500 against beleaguered Dolphins

Every time Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has faced the Dolphins, Miami has had a different player at his position.

That trend will continue Sunday when the Dolphins (1-5) play host to the Falcons (2-3). Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has never faced Atlanta.

Ryan, though, is 1-2 against the Dolphins, beating them in 2009 and losing in 2013 and 2017. Miami’s quarterbacks during that span were Chad Pennington (2009), Ryan Tannehill (2013) and Jay Cutler (2017).

Fast forward to 2021, and both the Falcons and Dolphins are coming off games in London. But there are two differences. For starters, the Falcons won in London while the Dolphins had a demoralizing loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars had lost 20 consecutive games before beating Miami.

The next difference is that Atlanta had a bye week following their trip to London. The Dolphins did not.

Meanwhile, Ryan, earlier this month, became just the seventh NFL quarterback to complete 5,000 passes.

Ryan, 36, is completing 69.1 percent of his passes this season. He is averaging 266.4 passing yards per game and has 10 touchdown throws and just three interceptions.

Despite his advanced age, Ryan’s completion percentage is better than his career number (65.5). In addition, his interception rate is down while his TD rate is up.

Ryan’s emerging top target is tight end Kyle Pitts, the fourth player selected in this year’s draft. Pitts, 21, is coming off a nine-catch, 119-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Jets. In the past 20 years, only two NFL rookie tight ends have had more yards in a game.

“I think there’s going to be a lot more of those games for him,” Ryan said of Pitts. “He’s done a great job focusing on growth and development.”

The Dolphins — after winning 10 games last season — are off to a rough start amid a five-game losing streak.

According to computer projections, the Dolphins have just a 7 percent chance at making the playoffs — and that may be generous. The Dolphins rank 29th in the league in both scoring offense and scoring defense.

After missing three games due to fractured ribs, Tagovailoa returned against the Jaguars and did some good things, completing 33 of 47 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. His Dolphins converted on 9 of 17 third-down plays.

However, there were some hiccups for Miami, including one interception and a key failure on a fourth-down play.

“I think we’re very close as a team,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s just little things we can look at in the film room.”

For the season, Tagovailoa is completing 64.1 percent of his passes for three touchdowns, three interceptions and an average of 181.3 yards per game.

Miami’s top playmakers are tight end Mike Gesicki and rookie wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Gesicki has 30 catches for a team-high 342 yards and one TD. Waddle has a team-high 37 catches for 301 yards and three TDs.

The Falcons are relatively healthy with zero offensive players and no defensive starters showing up on this week’s injury report.

Miami, though, is banged up, with both starting cornerbacks, Xavien Howard (shoulder/groin) and Byron Jones (Achilles/groin), limited in practice this week after missing last Sunday’s game. The same goes for wide receivers DeVante Parker (shoulder/hamstring) and Preston Williams (groin).

In addition, Dolphins rookie pass-rusher Jaelan Phillips was limited this week due to an ankle injury.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) carries the ball past New York Giants free safety Jabrill Peppers (21) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

WR Calvin Ridley (personal) returns to Falcons

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is returning to practice after taking time away to address a personal matter.

Coach Arthur Smith made the announcement Monday.

Ridley didn’t travel to London for the Oct. 10 game, a 27-20 win against the New York Jets. The Falcons had a bye Sunday.

Ridley, 26, is off to a strong start and has 27 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown for Atlanta (2-3).

The team did not give a reason for his time away from the team, saying only, “We are in support of Calvin during this time and will respect his privacy on the matter.”

Riley had career bests of 90 catches and 1,374 yards last season when he supplanted the since-departed Julio Jones as the team’s top wideout.

Overall, Ridley has 244 receptions for 3,316 yards and 27 touchdowns in 48 NFL games (34 starts).

The Falcons visit the Miami Dolphins (1-5) on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; London, England, United Kingdom; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball before an NFL International Series Game against the New York Jets at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Ryan hits milestone as Falcons down Jets in London

Matt Ryan threw for 342 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Atlanta Falcons to a 27-20 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday in London.

Ryan became the seventh NFL player to complete 5,000 passes in his career after his 5-yard toss to Olamide Zaccheaus in the fourth quarter. Ryan (57,099) also moved past former New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (57,023) into eighth place in all-time passing yards.

Rookie Kyle Pitts (nine catches, 119 yards) and fellow tight end Hayden Hurst each reeled in a touchdown pass for the Falcons (2-3), who overcame the absences of wideouts Calvin Ridley (personal reasons) and Justin Gage (ankle).

Reigning NFL Rookie of the Week Zach Wilson completed 19 of 32 passes 192 yards and one interception for New York (1-4).

Tevin Coleman opened the second half with a 65-yard kick return to ignite the Jets. Ty Johnson and rookie Michael Carter scored from 1 and 2 yards out, respectively, to trim Atlanta’s lead to 20-17.

Mike Davis rushed in from 3 yards out on the ensuing drive with 2:19 remaining in the fourth quarter to give the Falcons a 27-17 lead.

Matt Ammendola’s 49-yard field goal trimmed the deficit with 22 seconds left, however the Falcons recovered the onside kick to end the game.

Atlanta benefited from a roughing the passer penalty and Cordarrelle Patterson converted a fourth-and-1 play to set up the game’s first score midway through the first quarter. Younghoe Koo drilled a 31-yard field goal to complete a 14-play, 62-yard drive.

New York went three-and-out on the next possession and Atlanta capped a 10-play, 92-yard drive after Pitts beat defensive end John Franklin-Myers for an easy 2-yard touchdown. The touchdown was the first for the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Pitts made a one-handed catch for 22 yards on the ensuing Falcons’ possession, leading to Hurst’s 17-yard touchdown reception. The touchdown was the first of the season for Hurst.

Jaylinn Hawkins’ first career interception on the ensuing drive set up Atlanta at the Jets’ 34-yard line. Hurst, however, fumbled the ball while fighting for extra yards to end that threat.

Ammendola capped New York’s 16-play drive with a 31-yard field goal for the Jets’ first score, however Koo answered with a 52-yard kick as time expired to give Atlanta a 20-3 lead at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (18) tries to catch a pass against the Washington Football Team during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons’ Calvin Ridley (personal matter) not making trip to London

Atlanta Falcons standout receiver Calvin Ridley is not traveling to the club’s Sunday game in London against the New York Jets due to a personal matter, the team announced Thursday.

The Falcons also said that receiver Russell Gage and defensive tackle Marlon Davidson won’t make the trip due to their respective ankle injuries.

Ridley, 26, is off to a strong start and has 27 catches for 255 yards and one touchdown for Atlanta (1-3).

“Due to a personal matter, Calvin Ridley will not travel to the Falcons game in London this weekend,” the team said in a statement. “We are in support of Calvin during this time and will respect his privacy on the matter.”

The loss of Ridley is a big blow for the Falcons. He had career bests of 90 catches and 1,374 yards last season when he supplanted the since-departed Julio Jones as the team’s top wideout.

Overall, Ridley has 244 receptions for 3,316 yards and 27 touchdowns in 48 NFL games (34 starts).

Gage will be missing his third consecutive game. He has five receptions for 28 yards.

Davidson will be sitting out his second straight game. He has eight tackles and one sack this season.

–Field Level Media

Tevin Coleman, of the New York Jets, leaps towards the end zone in overtime.  It was ruled that Coleman was a a little short of the end zone and the Jets ended up with a field goal which was enough the beat the Titans, 27-24. Sunday, October 3, 2021

Nfl Week 4 Jets V Titans

Jets tangle with Falcons in first London game

The NFL ventures halfway across the globe on Sunday when the New York Jets face the Atlanta Falcons in London.

The Jets (1-3) enter Tottenham Hotspur Stadium riding the momentum from their spirited 27-24 overtime victory versus the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson completed 21 of 34 passes for a season-high 297 yards and two touchdowns to make a winner out of first-year coach Robert Saleh.

“I feel like we’re getting better,” Saleh said. “More comfortable with the schemes. I’m hopeful. I see us getting faster, in all three phases playing at another speed on Sunday. There’s so much to be had. We’re getting more effective in techniques, and what I’ve asked of each player — to be responsible and be able to unlock their athleticism as we continue to grow, rack up reps and get faster.”

Rookie Michael Carter recorded his first career NFL touchdown with a 2-yard score late in the first half last Sunday. Fellow running back Tevin Coleman hasn’t found the end zone this season, but he is excited to face his former team.

“It’s going to be fun,” the 28-year-old Coleman said of facing the Falcons, with whom he played from 2015-18. “I love those guys over there. I know a couple of those guys over there, so it’s definitely going to be fun to play against them.”

While New York has a rookie quarterback at the controls, Atlanta (1-3) features grizzled veteran Matt Ryan under center. Ryan, 36, threw for 283 yards and four touchdowns in the Falcons’ 34-30 setback to the Washington Football Team last Sunday.

“(Ryan’s) a veteran that has been successful his entire career, one of the best in the league,” Saleh said. “He has tremendous arm talent, he’s one of the bigger competitors, a really, really, really good competitor. He’s a dog, always fighting. If he was mic’d up during the game, you’d hear more cuss words than you could imagine. He’s very talented.”

Saleh might drop a few cuss words of his own if he doesn’t contain Cordarrelle Patterson. The versatile star became the first running back in franchise history to record three receiving touchdowns last week.

Calvin Ridley is the primary receiving threat for the Falcons. The team leader in catches (27) and receiving yards (255), Ridley has reeled in at least five receptions in 11 consecutive games dating back to last season.

Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts slowly is getting acclimated to the NFL after being selected by Atlanta with the fourth overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. He has six catches for 85 yards over his last two games.

Wide receiver Russell Gage (ankle), defensive lineman Marlon Davidson (ankle) and safety Erik Harris (calf) did not practice on Wednesday for Atlanta.

While their availability is in question, the Falcons definitely will be without cornerback Isaiah Oliver. The 25-year-old was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday after being carted off the field with a knee injury against Washington.

“There are a lot of ways to attack it,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said of addressing the long-term absence of Oliver. “Not necessarily every time do you have to go one-for-one when you have injuries.

“… There’s a lot of ways to do it. We can have multiple guys step up there and play different roles. You may naturally evolve into something else, could be a really good thing for you.”

The Jets, in turn, were without seven players during Wednesday’s practice, including safety Marcus Maye (ankle), tight end Tyler Kroft (back), and wide receivers Denzel Mims (illness, non-COVID-19) and Jeff Smith (concussion).

–Field Level Media

Aug 29, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons cornerback Isaiah Oliver (26) on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons place CB Isaiah Oliver (knee) on season-ending IR

The Atlanta Falcons placed cornerback Isaiah Oliver on season-ending injured reserve due to a knee injury.

“I can’t say enough good things about him as a pro and a teammate,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said Wednesday, per The Athletic. “He’s really bought in, was having a good year. That’s the crappy part about this game.”

Oliver was injured in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Washington Football Team. He was carted off the field.

The Falcons selected Oliver in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He started three of four games this season, and 33 of 50 with the Falcons. He has tallied 166 tackles, 27 passes defensed, one interception, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack in his career.

Oliver, 25, was replaced by Avery Wllliams against Washington.

–Field Level Media

Oct 3, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Mike Davis (28) runs the ball against the Washington Football Team in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Heinicke’s late TD pass lifts Washington over Atlanta

Taylor Heinicke’s 30-yard touchdown pass to J.D. McKissic with 33 seconds remaining lifted the visiting Washington Football Team to a 34-30 victory against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Washington took over on its own 24 with 1:47 remaining. Heinicke got near midfield with a 24-yard pass to DeAndre Carter and found Adam Humphries for a 19-yard gain to the Atlanta 33.

On third-and-7, Heinicke rolled left and threw a short pass to the right to McKissic, who ran 30 yards down the sideline and successfully dove for the pylon.

Matt Ryan’s final play 37-yard Hail Mary attempt was knocked down in the end zone.

Heinicke completed 23 of 33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Terry McLaurin caught six passes for 123 yards and two scores for Washington (2-2).

Ryan was 25-of-42 passing for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Cordarrelle Patterson five catches for 82 yards and a career-high three touchdowns for Atlanta (1-3).

Washington pulled within 30-28 with 3:52 remaining when Heinicke broke a tackle and lofted a pass into the end zone that McLaurin came down with for 23-yard touchdown, but the two-point conversion pass was incomplete.

Trailing 3-0 in the second quarter, Washington gambled on fourth-and-1 from the Atlanta 36 but didn’t make it. Four plays later Ryan found Patterson behind the defense for a 42-yard touchdown pass.

Washington responded by driving 77 yards in seven plays. On third-and-8 from the Atlanta 33, Heinicke found McLaurin down the left side for a touchdown and the Falcons’ lead was 10-7.

After the Falcons punted, Washington drove again. Heinicke scrambled 20 yards to set up a first-and-goal and Antonio Gibson punched it in from the 2. The kick failed and Washington led 13-10.

Ryan engineered a perfect two-minute drill and capped it with a 12-yard pass to Patterson for 17-13 lead at the half.

The lead barely survived halftime as Carter took the second half kick a yard deep and raced up the middle 101 yards for a touchdown.

Patterson then used his height advantage to make a back-shoulder catch in the end zone to complete a 14-yard score that put Atlanta ahead 23-19 after the two-point conversion failed.

Dustin Hopkins’ field goal made it 23-22 with 5:32 left in the third quarter.

After a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty against Chase Young on fourth down gave the Falcons new life at the Washington 27, Ryan later hit Mike Davis, who broke four tackles for a 7-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 30-22 with 14:52 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) attempts a pass against the New York Giants during the second half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Washington QB Taylor Heinicke aims for happy homecoming vs. Falcons

Quarterback Taylor Heinicke is hoping for a successful homecoming when he leads the Washington Football Team against the host Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Heinicke, who grew up near Atlanta, had a rude welcome in his first NFL road start last Sunday when Washington was roughed up by Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills, 43-21. Heinicke was 14-of-24 with 212 yards, two touchdowns and two picks.

“It’ll be really cool to go out there, hopefully put on a good show and go get a win,” Heinicke told reporters.

Coach Ron Rivera said he has no plans to play backup Kyle Allen. The 28-year-old Heinicke has played 10 quarters since taking over for the injured Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first game.

“I’m going to stick with Taylor because, honestly, (Sunday) was Taylor’s fourth start ever,” Rivera said Wednesday. “It was his first start on the road. He was put at a deficit from the beginning. He tried to do the best he (could). I thought he handled the situation pretty well.”

Washington (1-2) and Atlanta (1-2) have both picked up their lone win against the New York Giants.

Washington’s defense is allowing 432 yards per game, second most in the NFL. The front line led by Chase Young has produced only six sacks in three games, but Falcons coach Arthur Smith is well aware of what they can do.

“Washington’s invested heavily in (the defensive line). They’re a talented bunch,” Smith said. “The talent level jumps off the tape at you. You’ve got tough matchups every week, but this is another challenge.”

Atlanta’s offense has struggled and ranks 29th in points per game (16.0) and 27th in total yards per game (301.3). However, the unit came alive with 10 points on their final two possessions in a 17-14 victory last Sunday.

“I just thought that we executed the way that we are capable of at the end,” quarterback Matt Ryan said Wednesday. “Hopefully, we can use some of that momentum this week and try and play that type of way — consistent, efficient and confident. If we can do that, I think we are capable of being a good offense.”

Ryan has completed 83 of 117 passes (70.9 percent) for 707 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Rivera is well-acquainted with Ryan from his time with the Carolina Panthers.

“He’s seen a lot of coverages, seen a lot of DBs,” Washington safety Kamren Curl said. “His veteran ways give him an advantage. (But) if we can get to him, he can’t move around.”

Running back Cordarrelle Patterson had six catches for a team-high 82 yards Sunday and is one of three NFL running backs with over 150 receiving yards (153). Kyle Pitts leads all rookie tight ends in receptions (11) and receiving yards (139).

Washington running back Antonio Gibson also had a banner day Sunday with 104 scrimmage yards, including a career-long 73-yard touchdown off a screen pass.

Atlanta’s defense showed improvement over Weeks 1 and 2, holding the Giants to 14 points. They have only registered six sacks and are one of four teams yet to intercept a pass.

Washington wide receiver Curtis Samuel returned to practice Wednesday. The free agent signee was placed on injured reserve with a groin injury before the season began and it’s uncertain whether he will be ready by Sunday.

“He moved around well,” Rivera said. “I really like watching him run, especially the deep balls. He showed his speed, so it was good to see him out there. But we have 21 days before we have to do anything.”

Falcons defensive tackle Marlon Davidson, who suffered an ankle injury on Sunday, missed Wednesday’s practice and was considered day-to-day, as is wide receiver Russell Gage (ankle). Cornerback A.J. Terrell, inactive against the Giants due to a concussion sustained in Week 2, had a full practice Wednesday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2021; E. Rutherford, N.J., USA;  New York Giants wide receiver Collin Johnson (15) carries the ball as Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun (54) tackle in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Younghoe Koo, Falcons boot Giants to 0-3 start to season

Younghoe Koo made a 40-yard field goal as time expired, lifting the visiting Atlanta Falcons to a 17-14 victory over the winless New York Giants on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J.

Koo gave the Falcons (1-2) their first win after they rallied from a 14-7 deficit in the final 12-plus minutes. His kick easily cleared the uprights and sent the Giants to an 0-3 start and their second straight loss decided by a game-winning field goal at the buzzer.

Matt Ryan completed 27 of 36 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns. He was 9-for-10 on Atlanta’s game-tying drive when the Falcons went 4-for-4 on third down conversions.

Ryan threw the 350th and 351st career touchdowns of his career. He connected on a 4-yard touchdown to Olamide Zaccheaus shortly before halftime and a 1-yard score to Lee Smith with 4:13 remaining.

Ryan also set up Koo’s game-winning field goal by completing a 25-yard pass to rookie tight end Kyle Pitts on 2-and-8 from midfield.

New York lost on a day when it honored Eli Manning with a ceremony that put the two-time Super Bowl MVP’s name into its Ring of Honor. The team also retired his No. 10 jersey.

The Giants also lost three key players to injuries as linebacker Blake Martinez (knee) along with wide receivers Darius Slayton (hamstring) and Sterling Sheppard (hamstring) exited the game.

Daniel Jones completed 24 of 35 passes for 266 yards. Saquon Barkley carried 16 times for 51 yards, including a 1-yard TD that gave the Giants the lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Giants settled for Graham Gano’s 25 field goal attempt for a 3-0 lead after Jones was sacked by defensive end Grady Jarrett for an 11-yard loss inside the red zone. The Giants settled for another field goal with about 8 1/2 minutes left after getting to the Atlanta 17 when Jones lost 12 yards on a botched snap.

After punting on their first four possessions, the Falcons took a 7-6 lead when Ryan connected with Zaccheaus. Barkley scored with 12:56 remaining for a 12-7 lead and Jones dove in for the two-point conversion.

The Falcons answered with a 15-play, 72-yard drive when Ryan found Lee Smith for a 1-yard strike with 4:13 left two plays after New York’s Logan Ryan was called for pass interference and three plays after New York’s Adoree Jackson dropped an interception in the end zone.

–Field Level Media