Falcons do just enough to pull out an ugly 13-8 win over struggling Jets
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The rain was falling, penalty flags were flying and the Atlanta Falcons 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 with an ugly 13-8 victory over the punchless New York Jets on a dreary Sunday.
“You’re in a playoff chase, you’re trying to win a division,” 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 with wins over Carolina and Green Bay. Atlanta entered tied atop the division with New Orleans, which lost to Detroit.
"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) got an early safety but couldn't get anything going — again — on offense in 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 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.
New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian (14) is hit while passing against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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 Aaron Rodgers, who 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 finished 12 of 27 for 121 yards and the touchdown to Pruitt. 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 Tampa Bay next Sunday. “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 and the INT. Siemian was 5 of 13 for 66 yards and lost one of his three fumbles.
Jets coach Robert Saleh and several team staff members, along with staffers from the Atlanta Falcons, honored the late Greg Knapp by running the steps inside the stadium before the game.
Knapp, 58, was a longtime NFL assistant coach who died on July 22, 2021, when he was hit by a car while riding a bicycle near his home in California. The “Knapp Stair Climb” has been done in support of The Coach Knapp Memorial Fund to raise funds for distracted driving awareness.
Jets: TE C.J. Uzomah was carted from the sideline and didn't return after injuring the MCL in his right knee on New York's second play on offense. ... DL Perrion Winfrey was carted from the field after hurting his right foot on Koo's 42-yarder in the third quarter. Saleh said the injury was “pretty bad.” ... WR Jason Brownlee (left ankle) was hurt in the third and didn't return.
Falcons: CB A.J. Terrell suffered a concussion early in the first quarter. ... OT Kaleb McGary left early in the second quarter with a knee injury. ... LB Nate Landman (left knee) was helped off the field early in the fourth.
Jets: Home against the Houston Texans next Sunday.
Falcons: Return to Atlanta to take on Tampa Bay next Sunday.