Falcons beat Jaguars 23-17, end 6-game losing streak
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Julio Jones shrugged off his franchise record. Devonta Freeman brushed aside his first rushing touchdown since mid-October. Kemal Ishmael downplayed his game-changing interception.
The Atlanta Falcons were more concerned with getting a victory.
And no one could fault them considering how long it had been.
Jones, Freeman and Ishmael provided big plays, and the Falcons ended a six-game losing streak with a 23-17 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
''It had been certainly a tough stretch,'' quarterback Matt Ryan said. ''Just to be able to battle for 60 minutes and get it done, I thought guys competed and everybody is really happy in that locker room right now.''
The Falcons (7-7) haven't had much, if anything, to celebrate since their last victory on Oct. 25. But they ended the skid with a complete performance against Jacksonville (5-9).
Jones finished with nine receptions for 118 yards and his first touchdown in seven weeks. He also broke teammate Roddy White's team record of 115 receptions set in 2010. Jones has 118 catches with two games remaining.
''The record means nothing, nothing,'' Jones said. ''It's just numbers. ... Records are made to be broken. One of these young guys will probably break mine.''
Jones dominated his matchup with Jacksonville's Davon House and was Ryan's primary target. Ryan completed 22 of 35 passes for 246 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Freeman caught seven passes for 45 yards. He also ran for 56 yards and a score, his 10th of the season on the ground and first since Week 6. Freeman's 5-yard score gave Atlanta its first opening-drive touchdown of the season.
Jones put the Falcons up 14-3 with an 11-yard TD catch in the second quarter.
Ishmael may have had the play of the game, though.
With the Jaguars facing first-and-goal at the 1 just before the break, Ishmael stepped in front of Blake Bortles' telegraphed pass to Marcedes Lewis and went 84 yards the other way. Ishmael looked like he might score, but Bortles tackled him at the 16.
Initially, it appeared the clock ran out during the play. But officials reviewed it and added 2 seconds, allowing Shayne Graham to end the half with a 34-yard field goal that put Atlanta up 17-3.
So Ishmael's pick provided a 10-point swing in what turned out to be a six-point game.
''We went out there and did what we had to do and came up with the win,'' Ishmael said. ''Coaches said the No. 1 thing is to finish, and that's what we did.''
Here are some other things we learned from Atlanta's win over Jacksonville:
JAGUARS REBOUND: Despite the turnover just before intermission, Jacksonville rebounded and tied the game at 17 with consecutive touchdowns to start the third. But the Falcons stiffened after that, and Graham's two fourth-quarter field goals provided enough cushion. The Jags had one final chance and looked like they might pull off the comeback when Marqise Lee made a juggling catch down the sideline. But Bortles overthrew Allen Hurns down the middle of the field on third down and then misfired to Allen Robinson.
PLAYOFF SCENARIOS: The Falcons and Jaguars are clinging to playoff hopes. Atlanta needs to win out, beginning next week against undefeated Carolina, and have Seattle and Minnesota lose both remaining games. Jacksonville needs to win out (against New Orleans and Houston) and have Tennessee beat the Texans and Indianapolis in consecutive weeks to win the AFC South.
THIRD-DOWN DIFFERENCE: The Jaguars failed to convert any third downs for the second time in coach Gus Bradley's three seasons. The Falcons, meanwhile, converted 6 of 9 in the second half. They converted on third-and-7, third-and-9, third-and-5 and third-and-13 in the fourth quarter.
STREAK BUSTERS: The Jaguars have now helped end four losing streaks this season: Tampa Bay and Tennessee snapped 11-game skids at home against Jacksonville, and San Diego ended a six-game slide against the Jaguars last month.
INJURIES: Falcons defensive linemen Ra'Shede Hageman and Grady Jarrett both left the game with shoulder injuries. Linebacker Justin Durant left the game in the fourth quarter. Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith dislocated a finger and missed time.
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