Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Falcons hang on to beat Lions


Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson (81) is tackled by Falcons free safety Thomas DeCoud (28) and defensive back Kelvin Hayden (26) in the second half.

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DETROIT — The Atlanta Falcons won consecutive games and handed the Detroit Lions their second straight loss.

Matt Ryan ran and threw for touchdowns to give Atlanta a double-digit lead in the first half, and the Falcons held on to beat Detroit 23-16 on Sunday.

On Detroit’s final drive, a pass-interference penalty against Atlanta was overturned because instant replay showed defensive tackle Corey Peters had tipped the ball.

Matthew Stafford then threw incomplete on fourth down from the Atlanta 41. Another player fell on Stafford’s right leg, and he limped off the field. He was having his knee and ankle examined, but said he would have tried to play again if Detroit’s defense got the ball back.

Instead, the Falcons (4-3) ran out the clock with a first down. Ryan’s 17-yard pass to Roddy White had put Atlanta ahead 17-6 at halftime.

The Lions (5-2) have lost their luster after their perfect start. Calvin Johnson caught his 10th touchdown pass late in the third quarter to pull Detroit within four points.

Matt Bryant’s third field goal gave the Falcons a seven-point lead midway through the fourth quarter on a drive extended when safety Louis Delmas was called for holding on fourth down. They had a chance to make it a two-score game on their next possession but couldn’t get past the Detroit 40.

The Lions, who struggled against Atlanta’s aggressive defense all day, had the ball at their 13 with 3:20 to go and three timeouts left with a chance to send the game into overtime.

Stafford converted a fourth down with a pass to Brandon Pettigrew, and a personal foul against Atlanta left the Lions 41 yards away from the end zone.

They wouldn’t get any closer.

Nate Burleson dropped a pass, and linebacker Sean Weatherspoon broke up the next one. Then replay showed Peters barely grazed the ball thrown for tight end Tony Scheffler, meaning there wasn’t pass interference.

Detroit never got another chance to come back after it couldn’t tackle rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers on third-and-4 from midfield.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz and the Falcons’ Mike Smith met at midfield after the game in traditional fashion a week after Schwartz had to be separated from San Francisco’s Jim Harbaugh in a charged scene.

Ryan was 20 of 34 for 218 yards with a TD and two interceptions and scored on a 1-yard plunge to break a 3-all tie late in the first quarter. He left the game briefly when teammate Will Svitek stepped on his left ankle.

Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez caught five passes for 62 yards, giving him 1,104 career receptions to trail only Jerry Rice in NFL history. Michael Turner ran 27 times — including a 50-yard gain — and finished with 122 yards rushing for the Falcons.

Stafford was 15 of 32 for 183 yards and a TD against consistent pressure. Johnson had five receptions for 115 yards and the score.

Detroit’s Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams combined for 94 yards on 18 carries, filling in for Jahvid Best, who was out with a concussion.

The Lions struggled on special teams. They gave up long returns — one of which went for a score but was negated by penalty — and Stefan Logan fumbled on a kickoff to set up Ryan’s TD run.

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