Vaughn McClure, ESPN Staff Writer 78d

Matt Ryan throws three INTs, but Falcons still win

DETROIT -- Matt Ryan was ready to go back into the game.

The Atlanta Falcons quarterback thought the Detroit Lions had just scored the go-ahead touchdown with seconds left in Sunday's game when Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate. Ryan even huddled with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian about how to get down the field with eight seconds remaining in regulation and down 33-30.

Then the officials reviewed the place, reversed the touchdown, and ran 10 seconds off the clock, allowing the now 3-0 Falcons to walk off Ford Field with a puzzling 30-26 victory.

"When it goes to review, you could see he was short," Ryan said of Tate. "I was talking with Sark. Luckily, he kind of ... I knew the [10-second] rule, I wasn't 100 percent sure on the rule. He kind of reassured me that that was deal. And so it was good way to end; a great effort by our defense to just continue to battle."

Ryan said after a season-opening win at Chicago that the offense was still a work in progress. That might still be the case.

It was far from a flawless effort for Ryan and the offense in a showdown with his good friend Stafford and the Lions. Ryan saw his nine-game streak without an interception end emphatically. He had three interceptions -- although not all were his fault -- after not having a single game last season when he threw multiple interceptions.

"It comes down to taking care of the football, for sure," Ryan said. "We talk about that all the time. When you're minus-three in the turnover differential, it's tough to overcome that. We were able to do that today, but that's certainly something that we have to clean up moving forward."

Couple those miscues with some late-game defensive lapses, including two surprising penalties on reigning NFC defensive player of the week Desmond Trufant on the Lions' final drive -- and the Falcons found themselves in a dogfight. They survived.

When Ryan's late second-quarter pass was picked off by Lions safety Glover Quin and returned 37 yards for a touchdown, it marked the first time in 309 passes Ryan had thrown since an interception. Then another Ryan interception -- by Darius Slay on a pass intended for running back Tevin Coleman in the third quarter -- led to a Lions field goal. Ryan was trying to hurry up and get the play off before the previous play was reviewed, and the ball tipped of Coleman before Slay intercepted it.

The third pick came on a drop by the typically sure-handed Mohamed Sanu, whose 0.8 drop percentage per target over the last two seasons was the best rate among all receivers who had played in 20-plus games. Sanu took full responsibility.

"I was pissed," Sanu said. "It was uncharacteristic. It was simple concentration. I turned up the field before I had the ball. I should have finished the catch first. Do your job."

But not everything was bad on offense. The Falcons, who averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season, did reach 30 points. Devonta Freeman did rush for 106 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Ryan spread the ball to seven different receivers, including a team-leading seven catches for 91 yards by Julio Jones, who was treated for a back injury late. And Taylor Gabriel's 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown showed why the speedy receiver is such a dangerous threat. Ryan pointed to establishing the run as reason why Gabriel was able to break open for the score.

Ryan commended the offensive line for hanging in tough against a strong Lions defensive line, too, even if some of the penalties and Ryan's two sacks taken didn't appear to be all that great.

No matter how ugly it all looked Sunday, the Falcons remain undefeated this season coming off what folks thought would be a bad Super Bowl hangover and will host the Buffalo Bills (2-1) Sunday.

"We took care of the job today," Ryan said. "That's what it means. We set out every week to try and be the best football team that we can be that week."

On to the next.

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