EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) Coming off two dismal seasons that cost their coach his job, the Atlanta Falcons recognized how critical a good start would be under the new regime.
Julio Jones tied the club record with 13 receptions, good for 135 yards, including a 37-yard reception that set up the winning score with 1:14 remaining Sunday. Atlanta’s 24-20 comeback victory over the New York Giants gave new boss Dan Quinn a quick opening.
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”We’re 2-0,” said Jones, whose catch down the left sideline behind Prince Amukamara in the final 90 seconds set up Devonta Freeman’s 2-yard TD run. ”Like Quinn said postgame, you can’t win the game in the first, second or third quarter. You win the game in the fourth quarter. It’s all about how you finish.”
And while the Falcons have been superb at the end of wins over Philadelphia and New York, the Giants have melted down in losses to Dallas and Atlanta.
”I don’t know if catch phrases are going to work at this point,” said Eli Manning, who had a key fumble and also made some poor throws in the fourth quarter. ”It’s just a matter of playing four quarters and we have; we’re not making the plays in the crucial moments.”
Jones and the Falcons are – on both sides of the ball.
Kroy Biermann had the strip-sack of Manning in the third period that set up a 91-yard drive to Leonard Hankerson’s 10-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter. Justin Durant was in on 10 tackles.
”I came around the corner and saw that he still had it,” Biermann said of Manning. ”I just tried to reach out and get the ball.
”It helped us win. It helped us get good things going. We’re a ball-attacking team. We’re going after the ball every play.”
Other notables about the Falcons’ victory over the Giants:
JULIO AND TONY: Jones tied the team record for catches that tight end Tony Gonzalez set in 2012. He was thrilled.
”It feels great because my teammates needed me today for those 13 catches to pull out this win,” he said. ”I was here with Tony. He was a phenomenal player, incredible person, just unbelievable all the way around.”
Jones had a big opening game, too, with nine catches for 141 yards and two TDs.
OUTDOING ODELL: Giants wideout Odell Beckham Jr., the 2014 Offensive Rookie of the Year, had a strong first half, then was shut down in the second. He had 139 of his 146 yards in the first half, including a 67-yard score in the second quarter. On his TD, Beckham sped the final 40 yards alone after bursting through a small hole between two defenders who could only flail away.
Beckham set an NFL mark with 1,495 yards in the first 14 games of a career. He had seven receptions Sunday – and it was little consolation.
”We need to keep attacking,” Beckham said. ”It’s not 15, 35, 45 or 50 minutes. It’s 60 minutes.”
FIRST-PLACE FALCONS: Atlanta is tied with Carolina atop the NFC South, which the Panthers won at 7-8-1 last season. Oddly, the Falcons play three more games before having a divisional contest: at Dallas, home for Houston and Washington. Then comes a visit to New Orleans, which is 0-2. Tampa Bay is 1-1.
”Each week, we’re going to battle as hard as we can,” Quinn said. ”We don’t look too far ahead and not really to what happened in the past. We’re just going to try to stay in the present moment as long as we can and continue to battle every week.”
INJURY WOES: Both teams lost starters to injuries. Rookie Tevin Coleman, the Falcons’ third-round draft pick and starting tailback, damaged his ribs in the first half. He scored his first career TD earlier on a 1-yard run.
New York saw cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie sustain a concussion in the second half. He had left the game with a ”burner” in the first half, returned, then was hurt again. The Giants already were depleted in the secondary, particularly at safety.
Giants first-round pick left tackle Ereck Flowers went out with a sprained left ankle in the second half. Flowers became the starter in the preseason when incumbent Will Beatty was hurt.
SALUTING THE CHAMPIONS: The Giants honored their 1990 NFL championship team at halftime, with former coach Bill Parcells carrying the Lombardi Trophy onto the field. Also on hand was another Pro Football Hall of Famer from that team, linebacker Lawrence Taylor, as well as that Super Bowl’s MVP, running back Ottis Anderson.
Perhaps most proud was the 1990 linebacker-long snapper Steve DeOssie, whose son, Zak, is the Giants’ current long snapper.
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