EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY — While winning ugly is a trait that any professional team can appreciate, that doesn’t mean that the majority of the people involved in the game — players, coaches, and fans, specifically — enjoy seeing such an encounter play out. Such was the case at MetLife Stadium, where ugly football has been commonplace in 2023, and the Atlanta Falcons were dragged into a penalty-and-rain-filled slopfest upon their visit to the Garden State this afternoon.
The ugly soon turned pretty, as in another “W” in the standings for Atlanta and sole possession of first place in their division by day’s end.
Desmond Ridder threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to MyCole Pruitt in the second quarter, the only score the Falcons would need as they navigated through a steady rain on the afternoon and defeated the New York Jets 13-8 to move their record back to .500 at 6-6. Atlanta’s defense held an opponent out of the end zone for a second consecutive week after its home win against the Saints last week, crucial in a game where the Falcons only generated 194 yards of total offense.
“Obviously we want to score 100 points, we want to score every drive. That’s a good defense, [and the Jets] threw everything they had at us and there’s a lot of things going on,” Falcons head coach Arthur Smith said. “At the end of the day, the positive side, when we needed to make some plays, we did.”
Most of those plays came from the Falcons’ defense, who forced three turnovers in the contest, including a Dalvin Cook fumble on the Jets’ second play of the second quarter. Six plays later, Ridder found Pruitt over the middle for a 20-yard score and gave the Falcons a 7-2 lead. (New York scored the only points in the first quarter when its defense tackled Falcons running back Bijan Robinson in the end zone for a safety.)
From then on, the only thing more consistent than the rainfall was the consistently woeful play from New York’s offense, who turned to backup quarterback Trevor Siemiam in the fourth quarter after starter Tim Boyle threw an interception to Jessie Bates III at the end of the third — with equally inefficient results. A strip-sack of Siemian near midfield on the Jets’ penultimate drive sealed the victory for Atlanta, who moves into sole possession of first place in the NFC South after the New Orleans Saints lost at home against the Detroit Lions.
Each and every one of these games is a playoff game for us. We want to be able to continue to roll each and every week and keep making the arrow keep going up,” Falcons linebacker Bud Dupree said. “You don’t want to be one of those teams that it’s getting late in the season and the arrow starts going down. You always want to be one of those teams where the arrow pointed up, it’s great we got to show that.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday afternoon’s game, with all photos taken by New York-area photographer Scotty Rausenberger. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 23 pictures in total.