Kevin C. Cox
This was a first-round knockout and no smelling salt was able to awaken the New York Giants. It started with an Eli Manning interception on the game's second play. From there, the Atlanta Falcons dropped the hammer and the Giants resembled anything but a team poised to defend their Super Bowl Championship.
Matt Ryan threw for three touchdown passes -- two to Julio Jones including a 40-yard bomb -- to lead the Falcons to a 34-0 win over the listless Giants. The loss dropped New York to 8-6 and combined with the Washington Redskins' victory over the Cleveland Browns has its playoff hopes in big trouble. The teams are tied at 8-6 -- with the 7-6 Dallas Cowboys playing a late game -- but the Redskins took over first place in the NFC East due to a better division record.
Manning's pick led to the Falcons' first touchdown and set the table for a miserable afternoon for the Giants quarterback and the entire team. He was intercepted twice and threw for 161 yards on just 14 of 26 passing while completely out of sync all game long. Manning's passes either sailed high, dove low and there was no cohesion with his wide receivers. What made life worse for the Giants were two failed fourth-down conversions, one at the Falcons' 32 and the other at the 11 with a missed Lawrence Tynes field goal from 30 yards in between.
Conversely, Ryan was effective and efficient. He threw a perfect TD strike to Tony Gonzalez in the second quarter to bump Atlanta's lead to 14-0 and finished a tidy 23 of 28 for 270 yards. Although an injured knee limited top gun Roddy White to two catches for 16 yards, Harry Douglas (3 catches, 83 yards), Jones and Gonzalez each stepped up with Jones leading the way with six catches for 74 yards and two scores.
Domenik Hixon led the Giants with five catches for 80 yards and David Wilson ran for 55 yards on 12 carries, but as a whole the Giants offense suffered a complete breakdown from the machine that put up 52 points against the Saints last week.
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