Falcons 27, Jets 14
ATLANTA (AP)—It was a game both quarterbacks would prefer to forget.
At least Michael Vick could savor a victory.
Vinny Testaverde was all beat up—and his team wasn’t doing much better.
The 41-year-old Testaverde fumbled three times in the first 17 1/2 minutes, leading to two Atlanta touchdowns, and the Falcons dealt New York another road loss, beating the Jets 27-14 on Monday night.
Vick wasn’t much better, throwing a career-high three interceptions and winding up with the worst passer rating of his five seasons.
“I’m the quarterback. It’s all on me. Everything falls on my shoulders,” Vick said. “All I can do is come back the next game, try to get better and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Warrick Dunn rushed for 155 yards, breaking off a 65-yard run in the second quarter when the Falcons (5-2) were backed up on their own 5. That set up a field goal for a 20-0 lead.
The first 17 points were handed over by Testaverde, whose three fumbles tied a career worst. He also threw an interception as New York dropped to 0-4 on the road this season, averaging a mere 10.3 points in those losses.
Testaverde left the game late in the third quarter with a right Achilles’ injury, having gone 11-of-18 for 140 yards. He was replaced by Brooks Bollinger.
Apparently, Joe Namath wasn’t available.
“You spot 17 points,” Testaverde said, “and it’s hard to get back. That’s no way to play football.”
With an extra week to recover—the Jets are off next weekend—Testaverde has hopes of returning for the next game. The same can’t be said of linebacker Eric Barton, the latest casualty for the Jets. He tore his left triceps and is done for the year.
Vick ran for a couple of touchdowns from 1 yard out, but it was a dismal night otherwise. Appearing confused by the Jets’ coverages, he went 11-of-26 for 116 yards with only three completions to wideouts. His passer rating was a grim 16.3.
The Jets (2-5) never seriously challenged until Vick threw two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Bollinger directed a touchdown drive off the first turnover, and had New York in position to make a game of it until a fourth-down pass at the Falcons 11 was knocked down by Demorrio Williams.
“We have to figure out a way when we get the ball first to put it in the end zone and score some points so that we aren’t playing catch-up the entire game,” Testaverde said.
That play epitomized the plight of an injury plagued team. Testaverde came out of retirement after New York’s top two quarterbacks, Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler, went down. Kendall moved over from guard to replace six-time Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae, out for the season after tearing his triceps last week.
Testaverde’s fumble led to Vick’s first TD, a dazzling run that actually covered a lot more than 1 yard. He rolled to his left, feigned a throw to fake out safety Kerry Rhodes and slipped just inside the pylon with a burst of speed.
The Jets—with a geriatric quarterback and an offensive line that has been almost totally revamped since the start of the year—were just getting warmed up.
On New York’s next possession, Antwan Lake broke through to sack Testaverde, the ball coming loose just before the quarterback’s knee hit the ground. Patrick Kerney scooped it up and nearly broke free for a touchdown, getting tripped up by fullback Jerald Sowell.
The Falcons settled for Todd Peterson’s 22-yard field goal, but the defense wasn’t done.
Two possessions later, Rod Coleman burst straight up the middle without being blocked and slung Testaverde to the ground, the ball flying loose again before he went down. Backup defensive end Chauncy Davis picked it up in stride and ran 24 yards for his first career touchdown.
Davis was only in the game because Brady Smith went out with a dislocated toe.
Kendall blamed himself for all three of the fumbles.
“I made three mistakes, three critical mistakes, and they turned them into touchdowns,” he said. “Basically, I gave them 17 points tonight. It’s embarrassing. I feel horrible.”
The Jets finally showed signs of life before halftime. After Justin Miller’s 95-yard kickoff return was ruined by a holding penalty, Testaverde led New York down the field. He completed three passes for 59 yards on the drive before scoring himself with a 1-yard plunge.
Atlanta tightened up its run defense after giving up 211 yards to New Orleans a week earlier. Curtis Martin was held to 28 yards on 14 carries, though he did score on a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter. Overall, the Jets managed just 37 yards rushing.
Martin was coming off a season-high 148 yards at Buffalo, silencing critics who wondered if the 11-year veteran was slowing down. Now, he’ll face the same scrutiny after finding little room to run against the Falcons.
Atlanta, the league’s top rushing team, helped its average with 205 yards on the ground.
“I’m excited where this team is going because I see the potential to get better,” coach Jim Mora said. “It’s never perfect in the NFL. Sometimes it’s not pretty. But the bottom line is we got the win.”
Both teams are off next weekend. … Vick’s previous worst rating in a game was 19.0 in a blowout loss to the Indianapolis two seasons ago. … Laveraneus Coles had nine catches for 96 yards, accounting for a big chunk of the Jets’ 231 total yards.
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