With a spectacular passing performance, T.J. Yates laid claim to the Falcons’ backup quarterback position.
Yates had one sustained drive and two long pass plays that went for touchdowns to help the Falcons defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars 24-14 before 59,031 fans Thursday night at EverBank Field.
With the victory, the Falcons closed out their exhibition season at 2-2 and can now start pointing to the regular-season opener against the New Orleans Saints at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 7 at the Georgia Dome.
Yates completed 15 of 20 passes for 243 yards and touchdowns against the Jaguars.
Looking to add a veteran and improve the backup quarterback position, the Falcons traded for Yates after the end of minicamp on June 19. They sent backup linebacker Akeem Dent to the Houston Texans for the former North Carolina college star from Marietta and Pope High.
Because arrives so late in the offseason, Yates struggled during training camp and in the exhibition games. On the HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks,” Yates was shown hovering over his computer putting in extra time working on calling the plays.
He sensed that he was in trouble after a shaky performance against his former team in the second exhibition game.
But things clicked for Yates against the Jaguars on the Falcons’ third possession. Yates zipped a spiral up the right seam of Jacksonville’s zone defense to wide receiver Jeremy Ebert for a 28-yard gain. He also had completions of 12-yards to Eric Weems and 18-yards to Ebert in the drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman.tw
Later in the second quarter, Yates tossed a screen pass to running back Antone Smith, who scored from 66 yards out.
After the defense forced a punt, Yates tossed a 67-yard bomb to wide receiver Freddie Martino. The deep pass traveled 59 yards in the air from the Falcons’ 27 to Jacksonville’s 14. Martino took it in for the score.
The Falcons, as expected, elected to rest most of their key offensive starters.
Quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receivers Julio Jones, Roddy White and Harry Douglas, running back Steven Jackson and right guard Jon Asamoah (undisclosed injury) did not start and were not expected to play.
Defensively, the Falcons used their starters.