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Atlanta Falcons Team Report

The Falcons' offensive line, which gave up 47 sacks last season, continues to protect rookie quarterback Matt Ryan like he holds the key to Fort Knox.

Against the Chargers, Ryan was hit just twice and the line did not allow a sack. The Falcons have yielded just one sack in their past four games. In the last meeting with the Saints, Ryan was not sacked.

But the blue-collar unit, with no Pro Bowl appearances, doesn't want to take all of the credit.

"It's not just us up front," center Todd McClure said. "It's him getting the ball out of his hands quickly and knowing where his receivers are supposed to be. He's a special player, man. He makes our job easy."

And it looks like it's getting easier each week for the still-maturing signal caller. Ryan completed a crisp 17-of-23 passes for 207 yards and two touchdowns, out-dueling San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers, who entered the game as the NFL's top-rated passer.

Despite the steady performance from Ryan, the game wasn't without its roller-coaster moments. The Falcons turned the ball over three times - all fumbles - and still managed to come away with a road victory. They also failed to score before the end of the first half, despite having first-and-goal at the San Diego 2-yard line.

"That's part of the game," Ryan said. "You have to understand that there are going to be ups and downs and at times things aren't going to go your way. I think that it speaks to the character of the guys that we have in our locker room and our coaches as well. Everybody continued to fight and we came out on top and made enough plays to win in the end."

Ryan had not thrown a touchdown pass in the two previous games before throwing two against the Chargers.

Ryan's first touchdown came early in the second quarter with the Falcons trailing 7-6. He fired an 18-yard strike to tight end Justin Peelle. A fearless Ryan squeezed the ball between three defenders.

His second came on the first play of the fourth quarter - a 5-yard pass to a wide-open Harry Douglas.

"He's doing a good job," said Roddy White, who had his sixth 100-yard game of the season. "We go out and practice things and it translates into the game. He's doing a good job getting the ball out of his hand. If he keeps doing what he is doing, he can't do anything but get better."


—On his second reception of the game, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White eclipsed the 1,000-yard receiving mark for the second consecutive season.

White entered the game with 973 yards receiving. He had a 19-yard catch followed by a 9-yard to push him over. He finished with six receptions for 112 yards.

White now has 68 receptions and 1,085 yards this season.

"It's a good thing as long as we keep winning games, everything is a good thing," White said.

White became the first Falcons receiver with back-to-back 1,000-yards season since 1998-1999 when Terance Mathis accomplished the feat

It was also White's sixth 100-yard receiving game of the season and is now on pace to set the franchise record in receiving yards for a season with 1,447. Alfred Jenkins holds the franchise mark of 1,358 sent in 1981.

"I'm going to go out there and continue to do my job and hopefully I get more than that," White said. "Hopefully I'll get 1,400 or 1,500 yards."

—Other than not pushing it in on San Diego during their goal line stand, the offensive line did a good job against a 3-4 defense. They sprung running back Michael Turner for 120 yards on 31 carries.

"It's always a challenge because you don't face it often," center Todd McClure said. "But John Abraham said it before the game, which ever back has the most success, that's who's going to win the game. That proved to be correct."

—San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers entered the game with 23 touchdown passes, one behind Arizona's Kurt Warner. He was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.

—Defensive tackle Grady Jackson is expected to receive notice from the league on Tuesday about his four-game suspension for a violation of the league's steroid policy.

Jackson appealed the decision and appeared before league officials on Nov. 21 to state his case.

Next week's game against the Saints could be altered. They have three players — running back Deuce McAllister, defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith - facing suspensions.

—Rookie offensive tackle Sam Baker said he expects to play next week against New Orleans.

Baker, who had a discectomy on Oct. 28 to improve his lower back, has missed the last five games. He could give the offensive line a boost over the final quarter of the season.



—WR Roddy White topped the 1,000-yard mark against the Chargers. White and RB Michael Turner became the first receiver and running back duo in franchise history to each record 1,000-yard seasons since 1998 when RB Jamal Anderson (1,846) and WR Tony Martin (1,181) and WR Terance Mathis (1,136) accomplished the feat.

—DE Jamaal Anderson blocked his first career field goal against San Diego, which was returned by LB Curtis Lofton for 19 yards.

—DE Kroy Biermann got his first career sack when he dropped Chargers QB Philip Rivers.

—DT Jonathan Babineaux had 11/2 sacks against San Diego. Babineaux has only one two-sack game in his career, which came on September 16, 2007 against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

—WR/PR Harry Douglas had his third-longest punt return of the season (32 yards) against San Diego.

—TE Justin Peelle, taking over the No. 1 tight end spot after Ben Hartsock was placed on injured reserve, registered a season-high in receiving with three catches for 38 yards and one touchdown.


PASSING OFFENSE: B — QB Matt Ryan had not thrown a touchdown pass in the two previous games. He came up with a beautiful throw on an 18-yard touchdown pass to Justin Peelle in the second quarter. He threaded a pass between three defenders. Also, with the Falcons up by two and needing points, he found Harry Douglas wide open in the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Peelle throw made you forget that Ryan overthrew a wide open Michael Jenkins on the first drive of the game, forcing the Falcons to settle for a field goal. WR Roddy White continued his march to the Pro Bowl with six catches and 112 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus — Michael Turner did the heavy lifting, but all four running backs ran the ball from scrimmage. Turner made a triumphant return to San Diego by rushing for 120 yards on 31 carries against his former team. He did not bust the big run, but he kept his legs churning while giving some of his old teammates a ride on his back. Jerious Norwood had four carries, fullback Ovie Mughelli three and Jason Snelling one. The grade would have been higher, but the Falcons couldn't punch it in for a touchdown on four tries inside the 1 late in the second quarter. If you're serious about making the playoffs, that ball has to get across the line.

PASS DEFENSE: A — It figured to be a long day for the secondary, which was facing San Diego quarterback Philips Rivers, who entered the game with the league's top quarterback passer rating and a second-best 23 touchdowns. Rivers, though, never could get into a rhythm, as he was being harassed by lineman John Abraham, Jonathan Babineaux and rookie Kroy Biermann. Babineaux had 11/2 sacks. Abraham had a half sack and forced a safety. Biermann posted his first career sack. The secondary didn't give up a touchdown or any plays of 20 yards or more. Safety Erik Coleman came up with a key breakup late in the game to force a punt. Rivers completed only 17 of 30 passes for 149 yards, was sacked three times and had five passes batted down.

RUSH DEFENSE: A — The Falcons shut down what used to be the league's most potent rushing attack. There is no fullback to lead the great LaDainian Tomlinson into the holes, and the repeated stretch plays don't appear to fit his running style. The Falcons were able to use their speed to outflank Tomlinson and held him to 24 yards rushing, the second lowest total in eight years in the league. Jacob Hester was the Chargers' leading rushing. He picked up 28 yards on a fake punt. The linebackers, who haven't showed up in the run defense in some games, were present against the Chargers. Weakside linebacker Keith Brooking had five solo tackles and two assists. Middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had four solos and two assists.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B — After the Falcons went up 13-7, the Chargers tried to pull some "trickeration" on the kickoff return. Darren Sproles ran to his right and gave the ball to Legedu Naanee on a reverse. Cornerback David Irons was not fooled and dropped Naanee for a loss at the Chargers' 8. Irons' heads up play led to safety. Punt returner Harry Douglas, after fumbling a punt that led to a San Diego touchdown, came back with a 32-yard return on his next return. Jason Elam made both of his field goals tries from 35 and 40 yards. Punter Michael Koenen averaged 53 yards on two punts and dropped one inside the Chargers' 20.

COACHING: B-minus — This one had a little funky feel to it. Nothing seemed to break the Falcons' way. All 16 of the Chargers points were scored off of Falcons turnovers. The Falcons challenged two questionable fumbles but lost both challenges. The team couldn't score on four tries from the 1-yard line as head coach Mike Smith elected to bypass a near certain field goal with just a 13-7 lead. A field goal would have put them up by two scores. It's OK to believe in your team, but after three tries it wouldn't hurt anybody's pride to send the kicker out there to put you up by two scores. Despite all that went wrong, the coaching staff coaxed the players into playing hard and staying focused. That perseverance paid off in the end with a victory despite the shaky fourth-and-goal call. This was a sloppy effort. Center Todd McClure pointed out that sometimes you have to win the ugly ones.

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