Monday, September 14, 2009
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: Illinois completes futile effort

Gonzalez, Peterson shine in Falcons debut

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[September 14, 2009]  ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) -- Welcome to Atlanta, Tony Gonzalez and Mike Peterson.

InsuranceGonzalez hauled in a touchdown pass and became the 21st player in NFL history with 11,000 yards receiving, while Peterson forced a fumble with a vicious hit and picked off a pass, leading the Falcons past the mistake-prone Miami Dolphins 19-7 Sunday.

The matchup between the two most surprising teams of 2008 wasn't much of a game. The Falcons defense, highly suspect after letting go five starters and looking shaky during the preseason, came up with four turnovers and thoroughly shut down a team that won the AFC East after going 1-15 two years ago.

Matt Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes for the Falcons, who made the playoffs after a quick rebuilding job from the Michael Vick debacle. Now, they are off to a good start in their attempt to post consecutive winning seasons for the first time in their 44-year history.


Peterson, the only prominent defensive player signed by Atlanta during the offseason, paid immediate dividends. The 33-year-old linebacker knocked the ball away from Anthony Fasano by flinging his body into the tight end after he made a catch late in the second quarter. Another newcomer, Brian Williams, scooped up the ball and ran 53 yards to set up Jason Elam's 36-yard field goal, giving the Falcons a 10-0 halftime lead.

Peterson also intercepted a pass intended for Fasano, returning it 39 yards to set up Atlanta's decisive touchdown. That one went to Gonzalez, the star acquired by the Falcons to give Ryan another weapon.

Gonzalez hauled in five passes for a team-high 73 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown after Peterson's pick. The tight end made the catch in the flats, cut to the inside while shoving away Yeremiah Bell with his left hand, picked up a nice block from Roddy White and waltzed into the end zone to join the 11,000-yard club.

Miami activated rookie quarterback Pat White and used him in a new version of the wildcat, without much success. He stopped for no gain the first time he attempted to run and overthrew Ted Ginn Jr. on a deep pass after the receiver beat two defenders.

Ryan faced some heavy pressure but still completed 22 of 36 for 229 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to Ovie Mughelli that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead in the second quarter.

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Chad Pennington finally got the Dolphins in the end zone with 3:21 remaining, throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Williams after a scoring toss to Fasano was taken away by a holding penalty. Pennington completed 21 of 29, but his throws accounted for only 176 yards. Ronnie Brown was held to 43 yards rushing, while Williams managed 39.

The Dolphins avoided their first shutout since Nov. 26, 2007, but did little to bolster faith in an offense that had five turnovers in a playoff loss to Baltimore last season.

About the only thing that didn't go right for the Falcons was their kicking. Jason Elam, one of the NFL's most reliable specialists, missed two field goals and an extra point -- perhaps the worst day of his 17-year career.

[Associated Press; By PAUL NEWBERRY]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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