Falcons Crush Jaguars, 41-14, Improving Playoff Hopes

Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes in less than three quarters of work, John Abraham had 3 ½ sacks and the Falcons clinched a fourth straight winning season with a 41-14 rout of the visiting on Thursday.

“Hopefully, we can play like we did tonight for the next couple weeks,” Ryan said.

This one was over by halftime. Atlanta (9-5) led by 27-0 when the teams trotted to the locker room. Blaine Gabbert and the shellshocked Jaguars (4-10) were saddled with a net passing total of minus-1 yard, and the Falcons were well on the way to strengthening their hold on an N.F.C. wild-card spot.

Gabbert had one of his worst games in a miserable rookie season, coughing up the ball twice on hits by Abraham. Both fumbles led to Atlanta scores, with defensive tackle Corey Peters scooping up the second one and trotting to the end zone early in the third quarter for a touchdown that ended any thought of the Jaguars getting back in the game.

“It wasn’t just me,” Abraham said. “The whole team was able to get to the quarterback.”

Ryan was 19 of 26 for 224 yards and 3 touchdowns, with a season-high quarterback rating of 137.3. Roddy White caught two of the scoring passes, Julio Jones the other.

Gabbert was 12 of 22 for 141 yards, also throwing an interception to cap a truly awful night of running for his life and making bad decisions. He got most of his yards on a meaningless final drive, hitting Chastin West on a 16-yard touchdown with 59 seconds to go. Jacksonville’s other touchdown came on a blocked punt after trailing, 41-0.

The injury-riddled Jaguars, playing out the season with an interim coach and a new owner, were coming off their best game of the season, having scored 41 straight points in a 41-14 victory over Tampa Bay. But, playing their third game in 11 days, they could not build any momentum toward closing out the season on a high note.

Michael Turner burst off left guard for 15 yards on the first play of the game, and the Falcons were off and running. Ryan capped the opening drive by stepping up to avoid the pressure, flipping a short pass to Jones, then watching the rookie turn on an impressive burst of speed for a 29-yard touchdown.

PLAN FOR TEBOW The New England Patriots say they are preparing for the ’ the way they do for any quarterback — by learning what he does well and what he does poorly and taking advantage of that knowledge.

There’s a big problem, though. Tebow is not like any other quarterback. “He’s a very unique person,” said Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who played with Tebow at Florida. “He’s a leader.”

Tebow has led the Broncos to a 7-1 record in his eight starts since they opened at 1-4. Their 8-5 mark going into Sunday’s home game against the Patriots leads the A.F.C. West.

New England has allowed the most yards in the N.F.L. despite a 10-3 record. The Patriots will have to be disciplined to deal with the scrambling Tebow.

“Anytime you have a quarterback that’s mobile, it definitely is a challenge for a defense,” said Patriots defensive back Nate Jones, a teammate of Tebow’s last season.

BROTHERLY ADVICE Before San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh started his preparation for Steelers week, he had an important phone call to make to learn the ins and outs of how to beat Pittsburgh: to Baltimore’s coach and his big brother, John.

The Ravens have won both of their meetings this season against the Steelers in what has evolved into one of the N.F.L.’s fiercest rivalries. And Monday night’s matchup between San Francisco and Pittsburgh has plenty of meaning to Baltimore, which is tied with the Steelers atop the A.F.C. North standings and trying to win the division.

John Harbaugh asked a team official to make sure he was allowed to help his brother with any insight. “I know for a fact a lot of coaches have spent a lot of time talking about us before they play us,” John Harbaugh said. “So I’m sure we’ll try to help him in some way if we can.”

N.F.L. Roundup: Changes for Jaguars, From the Top Down

Fire Jack Del Rio, who has the Jaguars at 3-8 in his ninth season as coach, and who had made the playoffs twice and won only one postseason game, and install the defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as the interim coach? Check.

Extend the contract of General Manager Gene Smith, who drafted the rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert, whom Del Rio benched in Sunday’s loss to the Texans? Check.

And make the stunning announcement that Weaver, the founding owner of the 17-year-old franchise, had sold it to an auto-parts mogul who was born in Pakistan and had previously tried to buy the St. Louis Rams? Done.

The Jaguars, in the most tumultuous day for the franchise since it was formed in 1995, recast their future and, at least for now, removed the possibility that they would move to Los Angeles, which hopes to lure at least one team to a new stadium that has yet to be built.

Weaver had long maintained publicly that he would not sell the team, which struggled to fill its stadium and which repeatedly avoided local television blackouts only with the help of tarps covering large swaths of seats. But on Tuesday, Weaver sold the Jaguars to , who emigrated from Pakistan as a teenager, made his fortune in an Illinois-based auto parts company called and had tried to buy the Rams last year before Stan Kroenke exercised his right to match his offer. Khan has pledged to keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

Forbes magazine recently listed the Jaguars as the least valuable N.F.L. team, at $725 million. The magazine reported Tuesday that Khan paid $760 million for the franchise.

Weaver said Commissioner Roger Goodell supported the sale, an indication that concerns about Khan’s financial and tax situation, raised during his pursuit of the Rams, had been resolved and that the sale would probably be approved by owners.

“This gentleman is absolutely the American story,” Weaver said of Khan, 61.

Weaver, who became emotional when discussing the deal, also sought to temper speculation that the team’s sale might mean it would soon be moving. Weaver said Khan first inquired about a minority interest in the Jaguars five years ago and came back a year ago seeking to buy the team. Weaver said his criteria for a new owner was to find someone whose passion for football in Jacksonville matched his. With the Jaguars apparently staying put, the San Diego Chargers, who are seeking a new stadium, are now the most likely team to move to Los Angeles.

“If the proposed transaction is approved in the weeks ahead, I will responsibly and enthusiastically serve the N.F.L., the Jacksonville Jaguars and their great fans, and I will be fully committed to delivering Jacksonville its first championship,” Khan said in a statement. “This is a franchise with tons of potential, playing in a community that is passionate about football and loves to win. I can’t think of a better place to be.”

Weaver said Khan, who was not at the news conference but was expected to attend Jacksonville’s Monday night game against the San Diego Chargers next week, was going to buy a home and spend time in the Jacksonville area, although he would allow the existing management team to run the team on a day-to-day basis.

“This is a team that will be in Jacksonville for many years into the future,” Weaver said.

Still, the sports landscape is dotted with owners who said they were committed to one city only to move to another, and Khan’s actions will be closely scrutinized as long as Los Angeles remains without a team.

Khan will have to make a huge decision almost immediately: hiring a new coach. Del Rio was the first N.F.L. coach to be fired this season, and while the move was expected, Weaver acknowledged that the timing was awkward because of the concurrent announcement of the team’s sale. Weaver said he spoke with Del Rio on Tuesday morning.

“I said ‘We deserve better, the community deserves better,’ ” Weaver said. “We’ve been very average over the last few years. This team is not far away from being a very competitive football team.

SUH APPEALS SUSPENSION A few weeks ago, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said that he would worry about his reputation for being a dirty player only if his family, friends or teammates told him he was crossing the line. On Tuesday, the N.F.L. did. The league suspended Suh for two games without pay after he stomped on the arm of Green Bay guard Evan Dietrich-Smith and shoved his helmet into the ground during a loss to the Packers on Thanksgiving.

Suh was ejected, and immediately after the game he insisted that he did not intentionally step on Dietrich-Smith. But a day later, after the Lions condemned Suh’s actions, Suh issued an apology on his Facebook page.

Suh is appealing the suspension, and the N.F.L. said it would hold an expedited hearing before this weekend’s games. It will be heard by Ted Cottrell, a former assistant coach, and the former Raiders coach Art Shell. If Suh’s suspension is upheld, he will miss games against New Orleans and Minnesota.

COLTS MAKE CHANGES Indianapolis fired its defensive coordinator, Larry Coyer, and announced that quarterback would make his first N.F.L. start since 2008. The changes came after the Colts dropped to 0-11 for the first time since 1986.

Coach Jim Caldwell said the decision about Coyer was made to “improve communication and production.” The linebackers coach Mike Murphy will take over the defense. Orlovsky will replace Curtis Painter. Orlovsky has started seven games in his career, for Detroit when it went 0-16 in 2008. (AP)

TEXANS SIGN DELHOMME Jake Delhomme’s agent said his client had signed with the Houston Texans and would back up the rookie quarterback T. J. Yates. (AP)

Jaguars (1-0) At Jets (1-0)


Matchup to Watch: Jets’ Defense vs. Luke McCown

All week, the Jets’ defense spoke in glowing terms about the 30-year-old McCown, who has made eight career starts and threw his last touchdown pass in December 2007. That graciousness was repaid by Jason Hill, a backup receiver for Jacksonville, who suggested that Darrelle Revis did not deserve his reputation as one of the N.F.L.’s top corners. Already smarting after allowing 390 yards to Dallas, the Jets’ defense has one more reason to prove itself, and its aggressive schemes could harass McCown all afternoon.

Number to Watch: 2.7

The average yards per carry last Sunday by Chris Johnson, the Titans’ superb running back, against the Jaguars’ defensive front. That could portend bad news for the Jets, who were held to 45 rushing yards last Sunday, their fewest in the Rex Ryan era. Improved blocking could open up the running game, diversify the offense and help keep Mark Sanchez upright, something the Jets struggled to do against Dallas. After being pummeled by the Cowboys’ blitzes, Sanchez needed concussion testing. ”You don’t want your quarterback to get hit that many times, that’s for sure,” Ryan said.

Quote of the Week

”It feels like a fresh-out-of-the-womb knee.”

MAURICE JONES-DREW, Jacksonville running back, who amassed 97 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in his first game since having off-season surgery on his right knee.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.