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Falcons win second straight

Atlanta gets past Testaverde, Panthers 20-13

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Posted: November 11, 2007 10:01 p.m.
Updated: November 26, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Joey Harrington was briefly knocked out of the game and was face down on the winning score. Vinny Testaverde limped around, unable to will his soon-to-be 44-year-old body to a touchdown drive.
    In an ugly day of football in the weak NFC South, Harrington’s guts to stay in the pocket was the difference.
    Just before he was drilled to the turf, Harrington found Alge Crumpler over the middle for a 30-yard touchdown with 20 seconds left to give the Atlanta Falcons a 20-13 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in a game filled with little offense, mistakes and old-man jokes.
    It may have lacked esthetics, but Harrington and the Falcons (3-6) will take it. After losing six of seven to start the season under the cloud of Michael Vick’s suspension, the Falcons won their second straight game and — gulp — may still have a chance in their struggling division.
    ‘‘I felt better than I felt all year, knowing that we put the drive together to win that game,’’ said Harrington, who has recovered from being benched earlier in the season.
    Crumpler, who returned after missing the previous two games with ankle and knee injuries, caught the short pass over the middle and sliced between safeties Chris Harris and Quinton Teal for the score.
    Harris claimed the official got in the way on the play. Harrington, trying to pick himself up, never saw Crumpler reach the end zone.
    ‘‘I listened to the crowd,’’ said Harrington, who in the first half caught his own batted pass and ran for a 4-yard gain.
    The Panthers’ only touchdown came on Ken Lucas’ 27-yard fumble return.
    Testaverde, who turns 44 Tuesday, was able to play after testing his sore right Achilles’ tendon in warmups. But Testaverde, struggling to move at times, was just 13-of-28 for 153 yards and the Panthers only got 59 yards rushing for DeShaun Foster.
    DeAngelo Hall, who was called for 63 yards worth of penalties, including two personal fouls while jawing with Steve Smith on the Panthers’ game-changing TD drive in the first meeting, prevented a score on Carolina’s best chance.
    Trailing 7-0 early in the second quarter, the Panthers went for it on fourth-and-inches from the Atlanta 20. Testaverde lofted a pass to the sideline and Smith made a leaping catch over Hall. But as Smith was trying to get to the end zone, Hall knocked the ball away. It rolled into the end zone and then squirted out of bounds for a touchback.
    ‘‘It really didn’t hit me until I got to the sideline,’’ said Hall, who held Smith to five catches for 61 yards. ‘‘Not only did they not get the seven, but they didn’t get the three either.’’
    Atlanta’s longest drive came on its first possession. The 70-yard drive was capped by Dunn’s 30-yard run up the middle.
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