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Falcons drop preseason opener
Jacksonville Jaguars defensive back Reggie Nelson, left, intercepts a first-quarter pass intended for Atlanta Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins, right, during a National Football League preseason game Saturday in Jacksonville, Fla. - photo by The Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Atlanta Falcons waited about eight minutes to launch the Matt Ryan era.

They'll have to wait longer for Ryan's first win.

Jacksonville rested Fred Taylor and lost three fumbles but still had enough offense to beat the Falcons 20-17 on Saturday night in the preseason opener for both teams.

The Falcons scored only three points off lost fumbles by three Jacksonville rookies — running backs Lavarus Giles and Chauncey Washington and return specialist Brian Witherspoon.

New Falcons coach Mike Smith, who came to Atlanta after five years as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator, played each of his four quarterbacks.

Smith didn't send kicker Jason Elam on the field for a potential tying 39-yard field goal attempt on a fourth-and-11 play from the Jacksonville 22. Instead, quarterback D.J. Shockley scrambled 17 yards to the 5 with 26 seconds left.

On third down from the 5, Pierson Prioleau made a game-saving interception in the end zone of Shockley's pass intended for Eric Weems.

Chris Redman started but was pulled by Smith after only two series. Redman's second drive ended when his deep pass intended for Michael Jenkins was intercepted by Reggie Nelson at the Jacksonville 6.

Ryan, this year's No. 3 overall draft pick, entered the game on the next possession with 6:41 left in the first period and led an 11-play, 74-yard touchdown drive on his second series. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 56 yards on the drive, including a 25-yard scoring pass to Roddy White, who had to twist to catch the ball.

"Matt threw me a good ball," White said. "It was a good touchdown for us and we got off to a good start."

Ryan completed 9 of 15 passes for 113 yards and a touchdown.

Smith left the first-string offensive line in the game to protect Ryan, who still was sacked twice.

Redman was 3-for-6 passing for 13 yards with the interception.

"I threw some good balls but they made some good defensive plays," Redman said. "It was a good start and it felt good to be out there playing against someone else."

David Garrard gave Jacksonville the early lead with a 1-yard scoring run in the first quarter. Backup Cleo Lemon led a touchdown drive to open the second half for Jacksonville.

Joey Harrington and Shockley, competing for the No. 3 job, split the snaps in the second half.

Jason Snelling ran 47 yards on a screen pass from Harrington to set up Harrington's 1-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Harrington, who also led a short drive that ended with Jason Elam's 36-yard field goal, was 5-for-7 passing for 64 yards.

Taylor, the Jaguars' veteran running back, went through pregame warmups but was held out by coach Jack Del Rio.

"Coach decided to take care of me," Taylor said. " ... I wasn't going to play much at all anyway."

Maurice Jones-Drew started for Taylor and had five carries for 23 yards. Greg Jones had five carries for 39 yards.

Elam was wide right on a 49-yard field goal attempt late in the first half and short on a 54-yard attempt with 4:22 left to play.

Notes: Falcons DE John Abraham left in the first quarter with a right ankle injury. ... Jacksonville WR Matt Jones had three catches for 37 yards. He faces arraignment Monday on felony drug charges in Arkansas. He was charged with possession of cocaine on July 10. ... Jacksonville placed DE James Wyche on the waived/injured list with a torn Achilles' tendon and signed DE Bo Schobel, who played in the second half.

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