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Falcons rest starters in loss
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Tony Gonzalez wore shorts and T-shirts on the sideline. So did David Garrard, Maurice Jones-Drew and Mike Sims-Walker.

They had plenty of company, too.
Atlanta and Jacksonville rested most of their starters and all their stars during Thursday night's preseason finale, giving backups a final chance to make an impression.

No one really stood out.

Fullback Brock Bolen scored on a 16-yard run, Josh Scobee kicked two field goals and the Jaguars beat the Falcons 13-9.

"We've got a lot of things we've got to correct," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "Preseason is for evaluating players, but it's also for working on new things schematically that you want to integrate into your offense and defense and special teams for the upcoming season. We've got a lot of things we've got to get better at."

The teams exposed just a few starters to the preseason finale, with Smith and Jack Del Rio preferring to save them for next weekend's season openers.
It showed. The Falcons converted just one of their first nine third-down plays. The Jaguars had a measly 100 yards in the first half.

Atlanta's Chris Redman started in place of Ryan and completed 15 of 22 passes for 142 yards in the first half.

Jerious Norwood ran four times for 31 yards. The Falcons were 0 for 3 in the red zone.

"I thought we moved it pretty well," Redman said. "But obviously you need to score when you get down there and we fell short a couple of times. ... We just have to learn how to finish drives."

Jacksonville's Luke McCown replaced Garrard and completed 5 of 12 passes for 39 yards in the first half. His numbers would have been better if Tiquan Underwood, battling veteran Troy Williamson for the team's final receiver spot, had not dropped two passes.

Williamson wasn't much better. He failed to get two feet down on a perfect pass near the sideline, and dropped a third-down pass near the goal line in the fourth quarter.

"You've got to convert those things to get yourself going," McCown said.

The Falcons (2-2) played without their entire starting offense and without seven defensive starters. Ryan, Turner, Gonzalez and receiver Roddy White got the night off. So did defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux, defensive end John Abraham, linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Dunta Robinson.

The Jaguars (2-2) had plenty of guys watching from afar, too. Garrard, Jones-Drew and Sims-Walker were among six offensive starters who didn't dress. Most of Jacksonville's starting defense — except for cornerback Derek Cox — also sat out.

Cox, a third-round draft pick in 2009, has struggled this summer. He played better Thursday night, but it came against backups.

"We had a couple of starters play," Del Rio said. "We have to toughen them up and get a little more work in. We played our first team offensive line. I thought they needed that offensively. We just want to be sharp with all of the work we're getting."

Jones-Drew has missed five consecutive practices and didn't travel for last week's game at Tampa Bay. He denied an Internet report he had arthroscopic knee surgery, but acknowledged Thursday night he has been "taking care of all the nicks and bruises."

"I wanted to be out there with my teammates, but we felt the best thing for me was rest and rehab and getting my body back right ..." Jones-Drew said. "I feel great. I can't wait to get out there and play Denver. They are the first hurdle in our road to success and I can't wait to get out there."

He called the false report "a big mess over nothing."

"There have been some false reports out there about what happened, which is fine," Jones-Drew said. "People are going to speculate, but that is not going to hurt anything that happens with this team. More than anything else guys understand. They want me back, I want to be back, and I will be back on Monday doing everything I need to do to get ready to beat Denver."

Atlanta moved the ball more effectively than Jacksonville — the Falcons outgained the Jaguars 316-202 — but Antone Smith's fumble in the second quarter was costly.

Smith broke through the line and gained 10 yards before safety Courtney Greene jarred the ball loose. Greene recovered, and the Jaguars scored the game's lone touchdown four plays later. McCown hooked up with Bolen for a short gain, then Bolen weaved his way through several defenders for a 16-yard score — his third of the preseason.

"He's had a nice camp and preseason," Del Rio said. "He's playing well and I'm not really surprised."

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