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Falcons stop Schaub, Texans
Harrington leads Atlanta to first win since 06
Falcons 5 col BW
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Joey Harrington, second from left, throws from the pocket while under pressure from Houston Texans' DeMeco Ryans (59) and Travis Johnson (99) during the first quarter of a football game Sunday in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

    ATLANTA — On this day at least, the Atlanta Falcons didn’t need Michael Vick or Matt Schaub.

    Joey Harrington threw a pair of touchdown passes to Michael Jenkins and 47-year-old Morten Andersen kicked four field goals Sunday, leading the Falcons to their first win of the season, 26-16 over Schaub and the Houston Texans.

    Harrington, who took over as the Falcons starter after Schaub was traded and Vick became embroiled in a dogfighting case, had another effective day by competing 23-of-29 for 223 yards. A week earlier, he passed for 361 yards in a loss to Carolina.

    ‘‘We’ve got a little flow going,’’ Harrington said. ‘‘So much of this game is getting on a roll, getting in a groove. We feel like we’re starting to dictate what the other team has to do.’’

    Jenkins hauled in scoring passes of 5 and 7 yards, the first two-touchdown game of his up-and-down career with the Falcons (1-3), who were one of five winless teams left in the NFL. In all, he made six catches for 64 yards.

    ‘‘These are some talented wide receivers,’’ Harrington said.

    Atlanta went up 20-7 in the first half and guarded its lead the rest of the game. The Texans (2-2) twice closed within a touchdown but couldn’t come all the way back, losing for the second week in a row.

    Bobby Petrino, the Falcons’ first-year coach, picked up his first NFL win. He wore a white cap — after going without anything on his head the previous week — in hopes of changing the team’s fortunes.

    ‘‘I’m not superstitious or anything,’’ he said. ‘‘But I was changing it up until we got a win. You’ll probably see the white hat for a while.’’

    Schaub was 28-of-40 for 317 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown pass to Andre Davis that gave Houston a short-lived lead in the first quarter. But the Texans couldn’t punch in their other scoring chances, settling for three field goals by Kris Brown.

    ‘‘It was a new experience playing those guys,’’ said Schaub, who spent the first three years of his career as Vick’s backup in Atlanta.

    The NFL’s oldest player, Andersen showed he’s still got plenty of punch in his left leg by connecting from 28, 22, 36 and 46 yards. He also had a 42-yard attempt that came up short and appeared to be nicked by a Houston rusher.

    ‘‘It’s fun to score points in crucial situations and help us win,’’ the Great Dane said.

    The Texans’ final chance came with just over 2 minutes remaining. Schaub ran up the middle and dove into the end zone, initially getting credit for a 13-yard touchdown run that could have pulled Houston within a field goal.

    But the Falcons challenged, and referee Gerald Austin said the replay showed Schaub went down just short of the end zone. On third-and-goal from the 1, Schaub tried a quick pitch to Ron Dayne, but the ball bounced off his hands and rolled out of bounds at the 7.

    Brown yanked a 25-yard field goal attempt wide left, sealing Atlanta’s first win since last Dec. 10 at Tampa Bay. The Falcons lost their final three games of 2006, missing the playoffs and leading to the dismissal of coach Jim Mora.

    That was just a precursor of the troubles that awaited the team this year.

    Schaub was traded to Houston in March for a package of draft picks. A month later, officers raiding a Virginia home owned by Vick found a major dogfighting operation. He eventually pleaded guilty, leading the shell-shocked Falcons with no other choice except to start Harrington, who already had flopped in Detroit and Miami.

    But he seems to be getting a grasp of the offense that Petrino brought from the college ranks. Harrington hooked up with Jenkins on a pass in the back of the end zone with just over a minute left in the first quarter to put the Falcons up 10-7.

    They led the rest of the way, pushing it to 17-7 when Harrington went to Jenkins with a short pass and he scooted around right end for the 7-yard touchdown. Andersen then booted through the 22-yarder to give the Falcons their biggest lead.

    ‘‘You have to understand, the guys in this locker room are the ones we have to play with,’’ Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler said. ‘‘We’re starting to realize that now.’’

    The Texans moved the ball well in the second half but squandered a pair of third-and-goals from the Atlanta 1, winding up with only three points off those possessions.

    They weren’t very productive on the ground (87 yards on 22 carries), even though the Falcons were banged up on the defensive line. Sixth-round pick Trey Lewis was forced to make his first pro start.

    ‘‘When you can’t convert third downs with less than 2 yards to go,’’ Schaub said, ‘‘it’s definitely frustrating.’’