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NFL PRESEASON ROUNDUP: Falcons fall in preseason opener, 31-17

Falcons coach Mike Smith yells at his team during Atlanta's preseason game Thursday against the Ravens.

Falcons coach Mike Smith yells at his team during Atlanta's preseason game Thursday against the Ravens.

ATLANTA — Matt Ryan gave Atlanta the early lead, then Baltimore's backups, led by Curtis Painter, took over from there.

Painter threw three second-half touchdown passes to lead the Ravens to a 31-17 preseason win over the Falcons on Thursday night.

"I like the way our young guys competed and executed," said Baltimore coach John Harbaugh. "Curtis Painter made some big plays with three TD passes."

Painter started eight games for Indianapolis in 2011 before signing with the Ravens.

"Obviously, scoring three times while we were in there was a good thing," Painter said. "Just getting some momentum going. ... It was a good first showing. I've just got to keep going from here."

Ryan led two touchdown drives, including a scoring pass to Julio Jones.

Ryan completed 9 of 13 passes for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was 5 for 5 for 71 yards, including the 7-yard touchdown pass to Jones, on the opening drive for Atlanta (No. 13 in the AP Pro32).

"I thought the first couple of drives, especially the first drive, we got out to a good rhythm," Ryan said. "We were in the no-huddle in the first series, and it was good for us to work that package."

Jones had six catches for 109 yards and a touchdown.

Joe Flacco completed 9 of 12 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown for Baltimore (No. 5). The Falcons led 14-0 before Flacco threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson midway through the second quarter.

Each starting quarterback left the game in the second quarter.

Ravens safety Omar Brown, an undrafted rookie from Marshall, had two fumble recoveries and an interception.

Atlanta starting linebacker Akeem Dent (knee) and rookie backup fullback Bradie Ewing (head) left the game with injuries.

Ewing hurt his right knee when blocking on Dominique Franks' 45-yard punt return midway through the first quarter. Ewing, a fifth-round pick from Wisconsin, was helped off the field before being placed on a cart and driven to the locker room.

Dent walked off the field with the head injury he suffered when blocking on a Falcons punt. He is expected to take over at middle linebacker after Curtis Lofton signed with the Saints and Lofa Tatupu suffered a season-ending pectoral injury in training camp.

Baltimore backup defensive tackle Ryan McBean was carted off the field late in the first half with a left leg injury.

Painter, who played behind Flacco and Tyrod Taylor, completed 7 of 14 passes for 76 yards and the three touchdowns. Taylor completed 8 of 17 passes for 64 yards and had five carries for 51 yards.

The replacement officials included only two with Division I college football experience: referee Craig Ochoa and field judge John O'Brien. The other members of the crew have worked Division II, Division III and other professional leagues.

The crew seemed comfortable for the most part and even withstood the test of a replay when Falcons coach Mike Smith made an unsuccessful challenge on a sideline pass from Matt Ryan to Drew Davis. The officials ruled Davis was out of bounds and the call stood after review.

The officials referred to the Falcons as "Arizona" twice during the game, drawing chuckles from some fans.

The game matched two franchise quarterbacks from the 2008 NFL draft.

Flacco's 44 wins are the most by an NFL quarterback in his first four seasons. Ryan is second with 43 wins. Flacco has won at least one playoff game in each of his four seasons. Ryan has posted four straight winning seasons — a first for the Falcons — but has yet to win in the playoffs.

Ryan, operating in first-year offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's attack, had completions of 13 yards to Roddy White, 26 yards to Jones, 19 yards to Jones and 6 yards to Jones on consecutive plays on Atlanta's opening drive.

After Michael Turner ran for 3 yards to the Ravens 7, Ryan went back to Jones for the touchdown pass.

The Falcons had a first down at Baltimore's 15 later in the first quarter when Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo intercepted a pass from Ryan.

"That's just poor play in the red zone," Ryan said. "That's something I have to be better at, and I can't take points off the board."

Matt Bryant's 31-yard field goal gave Atlanta a 17-7 halftime lead.

"It was obvious in the first half that we have a lot of things to work on," Harbaugh said. "Really, we need to be better on offense, defense and special teams. There were times we played like the Ravens, but we were not consistent."

Justin Tucker kicked a 36-yard field goal for Baltimore in the third quarter.

A fumbled handoff by Atlanta third-string quarterback John Parker Wilson at the Falcons 10 was recovered by Baltimore's Brown midway in the third period. Three plays later, Painter threw a 4-yard pass to Billy Bajema for a 17-17 tie.

Painter's 22-yard pass to Deonte Thompson late in the third quarter gave Baltimore the lead.

Brown intercepted the first pass thrown by Atlanta fourth-stringer Davis to set up Painter's 18-yard TD pass to Bobby Rainey in the fourth quarter.

Brown recovered a fumble by Aron White following a catch later in the fourth quarter.

Atlanta backup Chris Redman couldn't move the offense as he completed only 1 of 6 passes for 8 yards. Wilson was 8 of 13 passing for 69 yards.

EAGLES 24, STEELERS 23

PHILADELPHIA — Andy Reid was welcomed back to the sideline with a standing ovation and chants of “Andy! Andy! Andy!”

Then the Philadelphia Eagles gave their grieving coach a small reason to smile. Reid coached the Eagles just two days after his 29-year-old son’s funeral.

Alex Henery kicked a 51-yard field goal with 12 seconds left to lift the Eagles to a 24-23 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in their preseason opener Thursday night.

After the Steelers went up on Daniel Hrapmann’s 42-yarder with 1:57 left, Trent Edwards led the Eagles (No. 8 in the AP Pro32) back on an 11-play drive to set up Henery’s kick.

Rookie Nick Foles threw two long TD passes to help the Eagles overcome a 13-0 third-quarter deficit.

Ben Roethlisberger was sharp in his only series for the Steelers (No. 7 in the AP Pro32). He led the offense on a 16-play scoring drive in the first game under new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.

Michael Vick escaped injury after banging his left thumb on center Jason Kelce’s helmet, and took a seat on the bench after the offense went three-and-out in his only two drives.

PATRIOTS 7, SAINTS 6

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Will Smith crunched Tom Brady from behind, forcing a fumble in the first quarter. It may be the Saints defensive end’s biggest play for a while.

One of four players punished in New Orleans bounty scandal, Smith was suspended for the first four regular-season games. So Thursday night’s sack of New England’s star quarterback was a highlight in the Patriots lackluster 7-6 win in their exhibition opener.

John Kasay had a chance to give the Saints (No. 9 in the AP Pro32) the lead, but his 41-yard field goal attempt went wide to the right with 3:07 left.

Brady left after two series and 15 plays and finished with four completions in seven attempts for 30 yards.

New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees also played two series, lasting just six plays. He was 1 of 4 for 4 yards in his second exhibition game.

REDSKINS 7, BILLS 6

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Robert Griffin III needed only three passes on his third and final drive to show glimpses of stardom in his much-anticipated NFL preseason debut Thursday night.

After a muffed handoff and no first downs in his first two series, RG3 found his rhythm by completing his final three passes for 58 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon.

It was an eventful cameo appearance for the Heisman Trophy winner, who was drafted with the No. 2 pick out of Baylor. Griffin finished going 4 of 6 for 70 yards and a lost fumble.

Defensive end Mario Williams made a debut of his own for the Bills (No. 19) in his first game since signing a six-year, $100 million contract in free agency in March. Williams, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, and the Bills’ new-look defensive front was solid in limiting the Redskins to 11 yards and no first downs in the first two series.

CHARGERS 21, PACKERS 13

SAN DIEGO — Shannon Eastin became the first woman to officiate an NFL game and Philip Rivers had a touchdown, an interception and a fumble in limited action for the Chargers ( No. 16 in the AP Pro32). Rookie Jarrett Lee got most of the action, throwing for 235 yards and a touchdown.

Eastin broke the NFL’s on-field gender barrier by serving as the line judge for the seven-man crew of replacement officials.

She helped oversee a predictably ugly preseason opener by both teams, filled with fumbles, interceptions and missed assignments.

Aaron Rodgers had an interception and a fumble in three series for the Packers (No. 1).