Ryan’s streak without interception broken on attempt No. 212

ajc.com

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan opened Sunday’s game against the Lions on fire.

He had his way with the Lions defense ... until free safety Glover Quinn stepped in front of his 17th pass attempt and returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.

Ryan hadn’t thrown an interception in his previous 211 attempts. He would finished with three interceptions as Tevin Coleman and Mohamed Sanu tipped passes that were both picked off by the Lions’ Darius Slay.

“It comes down to taking care of the football, for sure,” Ryan said after the Falcons held on for a 30-26 victory. “We talk about that all the time. When you’re minus-three in the turnover differential, it’s tough to overcome that. We were able to do it today, but that’s certainly something that we have to clean up moving forward.”

Ryan hadn’t thrown three interceptions in a game since doing it against the Colts in a 24-21 loss on Nov. 22, 2015. Ryan has thrown at least three interceptions in a game eight times over his career.

Even with the interceptions, Ryan was 24 of 35 for 294 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a 77.6 passer rating.

Ryan opened the game by throwing a bomb to Julio Jones that was incomplete. The Falcons called pass plays on nine of the first 12 plays in the opening drive, that culminated with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Sanu.

After the Falcons loosened the Lions up with early passes, the offensive line was able to maul them in the run game. Running back Devonta Freeman rushed for 106 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. Coleman rushed for 46 yards on six carries.

“I’ll just say we’re getting better and better every week,” Freeman said. “You know what I mean? It’s a process, and next week we’re going to get better. And we’re going to rest the next week, and the next week coming back, we’re going to try to continue to get better.”

Freeman caught three passes for 32 yards and Coleman had three receptions for 43 yards. Combined, the running backs had 33 touches from scrimmage for 227 yards and a touchdown.

“I thought we played well offensively,” Ryan said. “Our offensive line did a fantastic job today. We ran the ball extremely efficiently, had some explosive chunk runs.”

Right tackle Ty Sambrailo, who was starting for Ryan Schraeder, gave up two sacks, but overall Ryan was pleased.

“They did a great job in pass protection against a defense who’s been getting a lot of pass pressure, pass rush the first two weeks,” Ryan said. “So, I was proud of the way our offensive line played.”

Jones caught seven passes on 12 targets for 91 yards. Slot receiver Taylor Gabriel had an electrifying 40-yard touchdown on a screen pass. He finished with five catches for 79 yards.

“It was good to have Taylor (Gabriel) back, he really made some plays today,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I thought on third downs, nice touchdown on the screen, so for him, dealing with an injury in the offseason, it was awesome to see him back in action today. Kind of looking how all of us are accustomed to seeing that kind of speed.”

While Ryan had his interception streak stopped, he extended his streak to 58 straight games of passing for 200 yards or more.  He has also has thrown a touchdown pass in 21 straight games.

The Falcons offense recorded a season-high 428 total yards, including a season-high 151 yards on the ground. It was Falcons second straight game that they have rushed for 125 yards or more.

The Falcons also had two scoring drives of 10 or more plays. They have seven drives such drives on the season, tops in the league.

“We’ve got a number of different guys that we want to feature, and so when we have that, we really want to go after them,” Quinn said. “Sometimes going after them might be a run that we really like for Tevin (Coleman) and for Free (Freeman). For back-to-back weeks I really felt Freeman’s toughness, and the way he ran the ball, the way he finished runs.”

The Falcons were clearly setting up their game plan to run by passing on the opening drive.

“Although we started throwing, some of those ones are play-actions to get guys to suck up so you have a chance to throw it behind them,” Quinn said. “Even the first play of the game, we took a shot down the field to try and go get aggressive.”