Falcons QB Ryan, RB Turner shine in debuts vs. Lions

ATLANTA -- Matt Ryan hopped down the field to celebrate after his first NFL pass, knocking down teammate Todd McClure along the way.

That was about the only stumble as the Atlanta Falcons started a new era.

The new quarterback did just fine. The new running back looked like an All-Pro. The new coach was beaming.

Ryan became the first quarterback in eight years to throw for a touchdown with his first pass, Michael Turner rushed for a team-record 220 yards and the Atlanta Falcons put Michael Vick in their rearview mirror with a 34-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.

"We wanted a fast start, and I thought we did that," said Mike Smith, who had never been a head coach at any level until the Falcons gave him a shot.

Indeed, Atlanta scored on its first three possessions for a 21-0 lead. Ryan, the third overall selection in the draft, looked worthy of the starting job bestowed on him after just three preseason games. In keeping with that numerical theme, he hooked up with Michael Jenkins on the third snap of the game for a 62-yard touchdown pass.

The running game did most of the damage, with Turner handling the bulk of the load. Atlanta's big free-agent signee broke off a 66-yard touchdown, scored again on a 5-yard romp and had another TD called back by a penalty. Even with that setback, he averaged 10 yards on his carries to break the team record of 202 yards set by Gerald Riggs in 1984.

"I always wondered what it would feel like to break a record," said Turner, who also set an NFL record for most yards by a runner in his first game with a new team. "It just happened."

The Lions resembled, well, the Lions. They bickered among themselves on the sideline, showed just how meaningless the preseason is (they had won all four exhibition games) and slipped to 31-82 since the start of the 2001 season. They surrendered a staggering 318 yards rushing, allowing the Falcons to break their franchise record.

"It happened, and it was bad," coach Rod Marinelli said.

The Falcons decided to start over after Vick was caught up in a dogfighting scandal last year. He pleaded guilty to federal charges and headed off to serve a nearly two-year sentence, leaving his former team to struggle through a dismal 4-12 season.

Afterward, the team brought in a new general manager (Thomas Dimitroff), hired a new coach and used its first pick on Ryan, who was quickly anointed Vick's successor.

So far, so good.

Atlanta took the opening kickoff and handed the ball to Turner on its first two snaps. Then, Ryan found Jenkins on a slant over the middle, hitting him in stride at the Detroit 45 and watching him streak all the way to the end zone ahead of Travis Fisher and Gerald Alexander.

Ryan raced down the field to celebrate, knocking over McClure when he jumped on the center's back. Michael Bishop was the last quarterback to throw for a touchdown in his first NFL pass, doing it with New England in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I was fired up," said Ryan, who completed his first five passes and finished 9-of-13 for 161 yards. "You have to play this game with emotion."

While Bishop lasted only one year in the league -- and it would be his lone TD pass -- the Falcons are counting on a much longer stay for Ryan.

"He didn't seem like a rookie," Turner said. "He took control of the huddle. He made all the right calls. He was a real drill sergeant out there. He was letting everyone know he was in control."

With Norwood chipping in to rush for 93 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown that gave Atlanta a 31-14 lead late in the third quarter, the Falcons averaged 7.6 yards per run on their 42 carries.

Jon Kitna threw a couple of touchdown passes for the Lions, hitting Roy Williams from 21 yards and Casey FitzSimmons on a 1-yard score, but Detroit gave few indications they are over last season's 1-7 finish, which ruined a 6-2 start.

Kitna also was seen jawing on the sideline with receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, though they appeared to make up when Jefferson patted the quarterback on the head.

"That happens every week, to be honest," Kitna said. "Usually it's just not on camera."

Game notes
The Falcons previous team rushing record was 306 yards against Tampa Bay in 2006. ... Rookie Kevin Smith led Detroit with 48 yards rushing. Rudi Johnson, signed just before the season, had only three carries for 14 yards. ... Lions WR Calvin Johnson, a former star at nearby Georgia Tech, had seven catches for 107 yards in his homecoming.