ATLANTA (AP) — Even on a team that hasn’t lived up to expectations, Matt Ryan is putting up MVP-like numbers.
Matty Ice turned in another brilliant performance in prime time Monday, throwing for 379 yards and completing his final 18 passes to lead the Atlanta Falcons to their second straight victory, 23-20 over the struggling New York Giants.
“Whatever it takes to win,” Ryan said. “That’s the mindset we have every week.”
Ryan threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Hall, Tevin Coleman broke loose on a 30-yard scoring run and the Falcons added another chapter to New York’s miserable season, sending the Giants (1-6) to their fourth straight loss.
“I don’t feel like we’re a 1-6 team,” Odell Beckham Jr. said. “That’s what our record is, but that’s not the feeling in the locker room.”
Ryan was the league’s MVP in 2016 when he led Atlanta to the Super Bowl. While these Falcons (3-4) haven’t played to that level, their quarterback is putting up numbers that measure up to what he did two years ago: a 71.1 percent completion rate, 2,335 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Ryan is only focused on the team’s performance.
“To inch our way closer to .500 is a positive for us,” he said.
It was also a big night for Giorgio Tavecchio, who was signed during the week to fill in for injured Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant. The native of Milan, Italy, made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 56-yarder that was the longest of his career and helped seal the victory.
“That kick was good from about 65 yards,” Ryan said. “He did a great job for us coming in on short notice.”
Facing one of the NFL’s worst defenses, New York botched its best scoring chance by going for a touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1 early in the third quarter. To the surprise of no one who has seen the Giants stumble through the season, Eli Manning’s pass for tight end Scott Simonson fell harmlessly to the turf.
Manning was sacked four times but still managed to complete 27 of 38 for 399 yards. Beckham hauled in eight passes for 143 yards, pushing him past 5,000 yards in his career, and Sterling Shepard finished with 167 yards on five receptions.
Both teams got off to sluggish starts offensively. The Falcons failed to cross midfield on their first three possessions, and the Giants weren’t much better.
Then, suddenly, Atlanta struck for two big plays to grab the lead. Ryan went down the left sideline to tight end Austin Hooper for a 36-yard gain, pushing the Falcons into New York territory for the first time. Then Ryan spotted Hall breaking free down the middle of the field, hitting him perfectly in stride for the touchdown.
Coleman’s touchdown with 7½ minutes remaining gave the Falcons some breathing room, but the Giants finally showed some life offensively.
Manning completed five passes for 61 yards before Saquon Barkley powered over from the 2 with 4:47 remaining for New York’s first TD of the game. Embattled coach Pat Shurmur decided to go for 2, looking to put his team in position to win with another score, but Beckham couldn’t hang on to Manning’s pass.
The Falcons drove into position for Tavecchio’s final field goal, extending the lead to 23-12.
The Giants did manage a touchdown with 5 seconds remaining as Manning hooked up with Beckham on a 1-yard scoring play, but only after the quarterback was stuffed on two straight attempts to run it over, burning off most of the scant time on the clock.
The Falcons were the first team to hold Barkley to less than 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game.
The rookie running back was limited to 43 yards on 14 carries, to go along with nine catches for 51 yards.
It was Barkley’s second-lowest rushing output of the season, eclipsed only by a 28-yard effort against Dallas in Week 2.
Barkley was coming off his best game of the season, totaling 229 yards (130 rushing, 99 receiving) in a loss to Philadelphia.
TAVECCHIO STEPS UP
Bryant is one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers, but Tavecchio sure made a good impression in his return to the NFL.
His 56-yard kick was the longest by a player in his first game with a new team in the last 40 seasons, according to NFL Research. He also connected from 40 and 50 yards.
Tavecchio kicked last season for the Oakland Raiders, but he was without a job until Bryant injured his right hamstring making a long kick in Atlanta’s victory over Tampa Bay.
That prompted the Falcons to bring back Tavecchio, who got a brief look from the team at the end of the preseason.
Even though Bryant will surely reclaim his job as soon as he’s healthy, Tavecchio set himself up to draw attention from other teams when he goes on the open market again.
The Falcons lost another guard when Brandon Fusco went down late in the first half with a right ankle injury.
Fusco had to be helped off the field by a pair of trainers, and he was quickly taken to the locker room on a cart.
Atlanta had already lost another starting guard, Andy Levitre, to a season-ending injury.
Ben Garland took Fusco’s spot on the line.
Giants: New York returns home next Sunday to face NFC East-leading Washington (4-2).
Falcons: Atlanta also plays Washington in its next game — but not until Nov. 4 after a bye week.
By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP Sports Writer