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Harrington looks good but Falcons lose big in preseason opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Joey Harrington looked comfortable running the Atlanta Falcons' offense. He's not Michael Vick, but he showed he can scramble a little bit, too.

Thrust into the starting quarterback job while Vick is away from the team and facing federal dogfighting charges, Harrington led one scoring drive in his three series Friday night in a 31-16 loss to the New York Jets in the preseason opener for both teams.

"Joey was on point," receiver Joe Horn said. "He was on top of his game and that impressed me. He knew the defenses and he had great timing with the receivers."

The former Detroit and Miami quarterback was 6-of-9 for 88 yards, including a 37-yard completion to Dwayne Blakley on a play that was kept alive when the traditional pocket passer avoided a pass rush with a nice scramble. While Harrington is nowhere near the mobile playmaker Vick is, he showed he can certainly play in new coach Bobby Petrino's offense.

"Offensively, this was great work for us," Harrington said. "I think we showed where we are with this offense."

Jets backup Kellen Clemens was also impressive, going 16-of-22 - including nine straight completions during one stretch -_ for 174 yards and three touchdowns, including two to Sean Ryan. Quarterback-wide receiver Brad Smith was incomplete on the Jets' only other pass attempt on a surprisingly chilly summer night at the Meadowlands.

New York ran the ball early and often, giving new No. 1 running back Thomas Jones plenty of work while Chad Pennington didn't attempt a pass in his two series. In fact, the Jets failed to complete a pass until late in the second quarter.

"That was kind of weird," Pennington said. "I was actually kind of nervous before the game, knowing that my main job was just to get the snap and not mess the quarterback-to-center exchange up."

The Jets finished with 40 running plays against 23 passing. Their first pass attempt came with 6:56 left in the first half, Smith incompletion toward Stacy Tutt.

"What we were focusing on early was running the ball, and that's really what we wanted to do," coach Eric Mangini said. "There's no better time than in the preseason to do that."

Jones, acquired from Chicago in the offseason, ran eight times for 27 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown that was set up by Leon Washington's 86-yard kickoff return. Jones received a loud reception after his first carry as a member of the Jets: a 5-yard run.

"It felt good to come up here and for the fans to show you a lot of love and show you a lot of respect, it means a lot to any player out there because it lets you know that they appreciate what you're doing," he said.

With Atlanta leading 10-7 in the second quarter, Clemens led the Jets on a 10-play, 88-yard scoring drive that was capped by Ryan's first touchdown.

Clemens' 42-yard pass to Justin McCareins with 4:58 left in the first half was the Jets' first completion, and he kept going from there. With New York facing a third-and-9 from the Atlanta 15, Clemens avoided a rush and dumped it off to Washington, who sprinted for a 13-yard gain. Clemens found Ryan in the back of the end zone on the next play as the tight end dived for the ball, caught it, briefly lost control and brought it back in while on his back with 47 seconds left.

"That was phenomenal," Clemens said. "That ball probably should have been incomplete. It's just a great catch on his part."

Petrino, coaching in the NFL after four seasons at Louisville, had the play reviewed, but the call was upheld.

The Falcons got within 14-13 with 1 second left before halftime on Billy Cundiff's 41-yard field goal, but the Jets opened the second half with another good drive.

After Smith returned the kickoff 46 yards to the Jets 49, Washington gained 25 yards three plays later. Clemens found rookie Chansi Stuckey in the left corner of the end zone four plays later to make it 21-13. Stuckey wrestled the ball from rookie cornerback Tony Franklin as they were in the end zone.

Clemens made it 28-13 when he found Ryan all alone in the back of the end zone with 5:00 left in the third quarter.

Cundiff kicked a 37-yard field goal 58 seconds into the fourth quarter, but Mike Nugent's 29-yarder with 7:56 left made it 31-16.

Jerious Norwood, starting for the injured Warrick Dunn, had eight carries for 29 yards, including a 10-yard run that gave Atlanta a 7-0 lead with 39 seconds left in the first quarter. Rookie Jason Snelling led the Falcons with 48 yards on 10 carries.

Jets rookie Danny Ware, an undrafted free agent out of Georgia, led the Jets with 48 yards on 12 carries.

"We didn't know they would run it that much, but it was good for us," Petrino said. "That's what we have to work on: our run defense. Unfortunately, they had too much success doing it."

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