Dec 13, 2011
THE STORY: The Atlanta Falcons were seeing their playoff hopes taking a major hit on Sunday after staring at a 16-point halftime deficit on the road. Enter Matty Ice. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw three second-half touchdown passes as the Falcons reeled off 24 unanswered points in a 31-23 victory at Carolina. With a short turnaround heading into Thursday night's home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, it was just the spark needed by Atlanta, which is tied with Detroit for the final two playoff slots in the NFC with three weeks to play. Atlanta also got a respite off the field when head coach Mike Smith was hospitalized with chest pains after the game, but was back with the team 24 hours later.
TV: NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET. LINE: Falcons -11, O/U 42.5
ABOUT THE JAGUARS (4-9): Maurice Jones-Drew scored a career-high four touchdowns - two rushing, two receiving - as Jacksonville snapped a three-game losing streak by pounding intrastate rival Tampa Bay 41-14. Interim coach Mel Tucker won his debut as the Jaguars forced seven turnovers and put up their most points since December 2007. Jacksonville had not scored more than 20 points this season prior to the outburst. Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert surpassed 200 yards passing for only the third time as the Jaguars scored the final 27 points.
ABOUT THE FALCONS (8-5): Ryan tied his career high with four touchdown passes, including a pair of fourth-quarter scoring strikes to rookie wide receiver Julio Jones. Ryan threw for 320 yards and had a 120.5 passing rating, helping Atlanta improve to 21-0 when he has a passer rating above 100. WR Roddy White had seven receptions for 84 yards and scored a touchdown in his third straight game. TE Tony Gonzalez also had seven catches and went over 70 receptions for the ninth straight season.
1. Jones-Drew set a franchise record with his 73rd TD last week. He needs two rushing TDs to eclipse the team record of 62 held by Fred Taylor.
2. White needs 36 receiving yards to reach 1,000 for the fifth consecutive season.
3. Atlanta RB Michael Turner went over 1,000 yards last week, the third time he's done so in four seasons with the Falcons.
PREDICTION: Falcons 27, Jaguars 13. Atlanta rolls and denies Jacksonville's bid for its first back-to-back wins this season.
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