Falcons back to .500 after ugly road win over Jets

AP photo by Seth Wenig / Atlanta Falcons tight end MyCole Pruitt, right, celebrates with running back Tyler Allgeier after Pruitt's touchdown catch during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.
AP photo by Seth Wenig / Atlanta Falcons tight end MyCole Pruitt, right, celebrates with running back Tyler Allgeier after Pruitt's touchdown catch during the second quarter of Sunday's game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The rain was falling and penalty flags were flying, but the Atlanta Falcons just kept slogging away.

Desmond Ridder threw a 20-yard pass to MyCole Pruitt in the second quarter for the game's only touchdown, and the Falcons took over sole possession of first place in the NFC South Division with an ugly 13-8 victory over the punchless New York Jets on a dreary Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"You're in a playoff chase, you're trying to win a division," third-year Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. "Sometimes it can get ugly in the elements. Whatever happens, you adjust, and at the end of the day, you've just got to find a way to win."

The Falcons (6-6) have back-to-back victories for the first time since opening the season by beating the Carolina Panthers and the Green Bay Packers in consecutive weeks. Atlanta entered Sunday tied atop the NFC South standings with the New Orleans Saints, who lost to the Detroit Lions.

The Falcons beat the Saints last week in Atlanta.

"It's being able to take advantage of your situations," Smith said. "It might sound boring, but that's how you find a way to win in December."

And this game appealed only to fans of sloppy play, punting and penalty flags.

The Jets (4-8), ahead of only the woeful New England Patriots in the AFC East, got an early safety but couldn't get anything going — again — on offense while losing their fifth straight game. New York even pulled quarterback Tim Boyle and replaced him with Trevor Siemian in the fourth quarter to try to provide a spark, but it was more of the same misery in what appeared to a half-filled MetLife Stadium.

"It's always an opportunity missed when it's a one-score game," Boyle said.

Siemian and the Jets had a chance to win with 1:53 left but again were ineffective other than a 25-yard completion to Xavier Gipson.

The loss for New York, which had three turnovers, is a serious hit to the Jets' playoff hopes — as well as the possibility of a return by four-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. The former Packers quarterback joined the Jets in the offseason but tore an Achilles' tendon early in the opener, and the 40-year-old has said his potential comeback this season was contingent on the team remaining in the postseason hunt.

"Yeah, it's frustrating," Siemian said. "It's frustrating for everybody. You realize the margin for error in this league is so razor thin that you could have it and it could be so close, and then it could look totally the other way."

Ridder completed 12 of 27 passes for 121 yards and the touchdown to Pruitt. Atlanta rookie Bijan Robinson ran for 53 yards on 18 carries and had three catches for 26 yards.

"We haven't stacked three wins in a row this year," Ridder said of the Falcons, who host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next Sunday with a chance to improve to 4-0 in division play. "We've stacked two twice now, so we've got to be able to keep our heads, come back home and be able to go out and get a third win."

Ashtyn Davis and Quinnen Williams combined to give the Jets a 2-0 lead late in the opening quarter when they blasted Robinson in the end zone for a safety.

The Falcons took advantage of a short field after Dee Alford recovered Dalvin Cook's fumble in the second quarter. Ridder capped a six-play, 47-yard drive by connecting with a diving Pruitt for a 7-2 lead.

Greg Zuerlein cut the Jets' deficit to 7-5 with 3:56 remaining before halftime with a 27-yard field goal.

Younghoe Koo's 22-yarder as time expired in the half made it 10-5 on a drive that was helped by Jets penalties. First was a personal foul on Chazz Surratt for illegal use of the helmet on the kickoff, putting Atlanta in New York territory. Later came a pass interference call on Quincy Williams and an unnecessary roughness call on D.J. Reed in the end zone.

The Jets had eight penalties in the first half — four in the last 1:55 — for 56 yards, compared to just two calls on the Falcons.

New York finished with 11 penalties for 71 yards, while Atlanta was penalized six times for 55 yards.

After Boyle was intercepted by Jessie Bates at the end of the third quarter, Siemian replaced him to loud cheers as he jogged onto the field with the offense. Boyle finished 14-of-25 for 148 yards. Siemian was 5-of-13 for 66 yards and lost one of his three fumbles.

Zach Wilson started the first nine games after the opener, but he struggled mightily and was demoted to the emergency No. 3 quarterback.

"He's always in consideration," Saleh said when asked if Wilson could start next week. "To what level, I'm not there yet."

Falcons cornerback A.J. Terrell sustained a concussion early in the first quarter, offensive tackle Kaleb McGary left early in the second quarter with a knee injury and linebacker Nate Landman (left knee) was helped off the field early in the fourth.

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