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New guys get off to good start for Atlanta
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ATLANTA (AP) _ The new guys got off to quite a start in Atlanta.
Matt Ryan threw for a touchdown on his very first NFL pass. Michael Turner set a franchise record. And Mike Smith got a win in his head coaching debut.
Yep, the Falcons put Michael Vick a little further in the rearview mirror Sunday, launching a new era with a 34-21 victory over the Detroit Lions.
"It was important for this organization to get a win," Turner said.
He sure did his part, breaking the team record with 220 yards rushing, including a couple of touchdowns.
So did Ryan, who hooked up with Michael Jenkins for a 62-yard touchdown on the third play from scrimmage, becoming the first quarterback in eight years to throw for a score on his first NFL pass.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Ryan said. "But we definitely have a lot of confidence after what we did."
What the Falcons did was pound Detroit into submission, setting a team record by rushing for a staggering 318 yards. Jerious Norwood chipped in with 93 yards on the ground, including a 10-yard TD.
"It happened, and it was bad," Lions coach Rod Marinelli said.
On the other sideline, Smith has a different perspective. The Falcons handed him the first head coaching job of his life, and the 49-year-old wasted no time becoming a winner.
Atlanta raced to a 21-0 lead with touchdowns on its first three possessions.
"We wanted a fast start," Smith said.
Ryan, the third overall selection in the draft, looked worthy of the starting job bestowed on him after just three preseason games. In keeping with the numerical theme, he needed only three plays to reach the end zone.
The running game did most of the damage, though. Turner, the teams' biggest free-agent signee of the offseason, broke off a 66-yard touchdown, scored again on a 5-yard romp and had another TD called back by a penalty. Even with that setback, he averaged 10 yards on his carries to break the team record of 202 yards set by Gerald Riggs in 1984.
"I always wondered what it would feel like to break a record," said Turner, who also set an NFL mark for most yards by a runner in his first game with a new team. "It just happened."
The Lions resembled, well, the Lions.
They bickered among themselves on the sideline, showed just how meaningless the preseason is (they had won all four exhibition games) and slipped to 31-82 since the start of the 2001 season. The gave up more points in the opener than they did during the entire preseason, when they allowed just eight points a game.
"You have to maintain a bigger picture," said Jon Kitna, who threw a pair of touchdown passes for Detroit. "You cannot allow yourself to get into the mind-set of 'It's the same old thing.' That cannot happen. It's one of 16."
The Falcons decided to start over after Vick was caught up in a dogfighting scandal last year. He pleaded guilty to federal charges and headed off to serve a nearly two-year sentence, leaving his former team to struggle through a dismal 4-12 season.
Afterward, the team brought in a new general manager (Thomas Dimitroff), hired a new coach and used its first pick on Ryan, who was quickly anointed Vick's successor.
So far, so good.
Atlanta took the opening kickoff and handed the ball to Turner on its first two snaps. Then, Ryan found Jenkins on a slant over the middle, hitting him in stride at the Detroit 45 and watching him streak all the way to the end zone.
Ryan raced down the field to celebrate, knocking over Todd McClure when he jumped on the center's back. Michael Bishop was the last quarterback to throw for a touchdown in his first NFL pass, doing it with New England in 2000, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I was fired up," said Ryan, who completed his first five passes and finished 9-of-13 for 161 yards. "You have to play this game with emotion."
Kitna hit Roy Williams with a 21-yard touchdown pass and Casey FitzSimmons on a 1-yard score, but Detroit clearly has some work to do getting over last season's 1-7 finish.

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