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Falcons continue dominance against Chargers

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- Atlanta made itself at home again in San Diego and extended its perfect mark there with a dominating victory.

Quarterback Matt Ryan passed for three touchdowns and safety Thomas DeCoud led a strong defensive effort as the Falcons manhandled the Chargers in a 27-3 victory before 61,297 fans Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium.

The win was Atlanta's sixth consecutive in San Diego and its eighth victory in nine meeting with the Chargers. San Diego's lone win occurred in 1988.

The Falcons also ended the Chargers' streak of 151 games in a row of scoring at least a touchdown. The last time it occurred was Nov. 24, 2002, when they lost a 30-3 decision at Miami.

Atlanta's defense was a catalyst for Sunday's rout.

"I thought we had a very good plan," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "(Defensive coordinator) Mike Nolan and his staff did a great job in putting a plan together. There were some things we were concerned about, but we were able to neutralize them."

Atlanta controlled the contest from the opening kickoff, using a ball-control offense and cashing in on two San Diego turnovers in the first half to roll.

Ryan completed 30 of 40 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns -- all in the first half. He threw one interception. His favorite target was tight end Tony Gonzalez, who grew up in the Southern California area. Gonzalez had 9 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown.

The Falcons (3-0) finished with 384 yards in total offense compared to 280 yards for San Diego (2-1), but it didn't even appear to be that close.

The Falcons scored on their opening possession, marching 80 yards in 10 plays, as Ryan hit Jacquizz Rodgers on an eight-yard touchdown pass for a 6-0 lead with 9:43 remaining in the first quarter. Ryan connected with five different receivers and completed seven of eight passes for 75 yards on the drive.

Atlanta took advantage of a pair of Chargers turnovers in the second quarter to increase its margin. A fumble by Ryan Mathews was recovered by DeCoud at the Falcons 4 with 10:42 left in the quarter.

The Falcons followed it up by grinding out a 17-play, 96-yard drive, which covered almost eight minutes, as Ryan hooked up with Gonzalez for a seven-yard scoring pass and a 13-0 lead with 2:32 left in the first half.

The Falcons added another score as DeCoud, who led the club last season with four picks, forced another Chargers miscue less than a minute later. He intercepted a Philip Rivers pass, giving Atlanta possession at the San Diego 29 with 2:04 remaining in the half.

Four plays later, Ryan found Julio Jones for a nine-yard touchdown pass intended for tight end Antonio Gates, allowing Atlanta to build a 20-0 advantage with 54 seconds left.

The Falcons finished the half with 235 yards compared to 107 for the Chargers, who were loudly booed as they left the field at intermission. Atlanta also had a commanding edge in time of possession at 20:21 to 9:39 for the Chargers.

Ryan completed 22 of 29 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Rivers managed just eight of 14 attempts for 87 yards and an interception. Jones was the leading receiver in the first half with five catches for 67 yards and a score.

Rivers finished 21 of 38 for 173 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Chargers got on the board in the third quarter, when Nate Kaeding hit a 41-yard field goal with 11:10 remaining, but managed nothing else.

DeCoud picked off Rivers again late in the third quarter at the San Diego 21.

Running back Michael Turner, who was arrested on a DUI charge earlier in the week, capped the scoring for the Falcons on a seven-yard run with 8:51 left. Turner played four seasons with the Chargers before signing as a free agent with the Falcons in 2008.

Turner finished as the game's leading rusher with 80 yards on 14 carries. He said maturity played a big role in the Falcons' performance.

"It showed that we're mature team and we're growing as a team and trying to get better every week," Turner said. "We knew coming into the game that we had to keep scoring because we didn't know when they would start letting loose. They've got some weapons on offense and can come back with ease. So we just wanted to keep pushing and keep putting the pressure on."

Notes: Mathews made his season debut after suffering a broken collarbone last month. ... Rivers had a string of 11 consecutive contests with a touchdown pass snapped. ... Entering the contest, San Diego had recorded the second-lowest points allowed in the NFL, giving up a paltry 24 points in two outings. Atlanta almost matched that number in the first half.
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