ATLANTA - The Falcons sent a message to all the skeptics with a resounding victory Sunday over the defending Super Bowl champions.
Matt Ryan threw three touchdowns passes as the defense handed the New York Giants their first regular-season shutout since 1996 in Atlanta's 34-0 win.
Julio Jones caught a couple of scoring throws from Ryan, who broke his own franchise records for completions and passing yards in a season. The Penn Charter grad finished 23 of 28 for 270 yards.
The Giants, meanwhile, were 0 for 3 on fourth down and missed a short field goal.
Eli Manning threw two interceptions for New York (8-6), which dropped into a first-place tie in the NFC East with Washington and Dallas, which both won on Sunday.
Despite its lofty 12-2 record and already having clinched the NFC South, Atlanta has received plenty of criticism for winning ugly against inferior opponents. A 30-20 loss to last-place Carolina the previous week only seemed to reinforce the notion that the Falcons are headed for another short stay in the playoffs. They have yet to win a postseason game since Ryan took over as the quarterback in 2008, going 0-3.
But one thing the Falcons never seem to do anymore is lose two straight games. They extended the NFL's longest active streak since consecutive defeats to 49 games, going back to the 2009 season.
For the Giants, it was a miserable performance when they desperately needed a win, at a time of year when they normally play some of their best football.
Manning threw his first pick on the second play from scrimmage, setting up a quick Atlanta touchdown. Coach Tom Coughlin made a curious call late in the first half, passing up another short field-goal attempt when his team was almost 2 yards shy of the marker. Asante Samuel batted down a short pass intended for Victor Cruz, sending Atlanta to the locker room with a commanding 17-0 lead and all the momentum.
But even if the Giants had taken the field goal, it probably wouldn't have made much difference.
The tone in this one was set right away.
When Manning attempted to hit Hakeem Nicks on a short pass to the right, Samuel stepped in to make the interception and return it to the Giants 16. From there, Michael Turner ran it four straight times to give Atlanta a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
The Giants' last regular-season shutout came on Dec. 1, 1996: a 24-0 defeat vs. the Eagles at Veterans Stadium.
Falcons 34, Giants 0
N.Y. Giants 0 0 0 0 – 0
Atlanta 14 3 10 7 – 34
Atl–Turner 1 run (Bryant kick), 12:12.
Atl–Gonzalez 12 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 1:43.
Atl–FG Bryant 38, 10:22.
Atl–Jones 40 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 11:31.
Atl–FG Bryant 19, :10.
Atl–Jones 3 pass from Ryan (Bryant kick), 4:57.
First downs 10 22
Total Net Yards 256 394
Rushes-yards 21-97 38-129
Passing 159 265
Punt Returns 0-0 2-10
Kickoff Returns 3-66 0-0
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 2-11
Comp-Att-Int 13-25-2 23-28-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 1-2 1-5
Punts 2-55.0 2-40.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 2-25 3-30
Time of Possession 21:03 38:57
Rushing: N.Y. Giants, Wilson 12-55, Lumpkin 9-42. Atlanta, Turner 16-52, Snelling 6-39, Rodgers 11-25, Jones 1-18, Douglas 1-(minus 1), Ryan 1-(minus 1), McCown 2-(minus 3).
Passing: N.Y. Giants, Manning 13-25-2-161. Atlanta, Ryan 23-28-0-270.
Receiving: N.Y. Giants, Hixon 5-80, Nicks 3-40, Cruz 3-15, Bennett 1-15, Wilson 1-11. Atlanta, Jones 6-74, Gonzalez 6-49, Douglas 3-83, Snelling 3-14, White 2-16, Rodgers 1-14, Cox 1-11, Turner 1-9.
Missed Field Goals: N.Y. Giants, Tynes 30 (WL).