ATLANTA — Deion Jones took off the other way Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, raising the football in the air long before he got to the end zone. Derek Carr watched the pick-six unfold from his knees, slamming the turf in disgust after another dreadful mistake.
It was the best of days for Jones and the Atlanta Falcons.
It couldn't have been much worse for Carr and the Las Vegas Raiders.
Jones returned the interception 67 yards for a score, and Matt Ryan threw a pair of short touchdown passes as the Falcons thoroughly dominated Carr and the bumbling Raiders, with Atlanta winning 43-6 just a week after its own sloppy stumble in a road loss to the New Orleans Saints.
Las Vegas (6-5) looked very much like a pretender in the AFC playoff race with its second straight loss, a listless, mistake-filled performance against an NFC foe playing out the season under an interim coach. The Falcons (4-7) forced five turnovers — four of them by Carr — to secure their most lopsided win since a 56-14 rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014.
"The guys needed a little bit of what I call a push in the head," said Atlanta's Raheem Morris, who improved to 4-2 since taking over after Dan Quinn was fired. "If you can get the guys to believe in themselves, believe in what they can do, those things usually work out in your favor."
The Raiders took their worst loss of Jon Gruden's most recent three seasons as coach.
"I apologize to the Raider nation and really compliment the Falcons," Gruden said. "They played a hell of a football game, and we did not."
Carr had a miserable day, fumbling the ball away three times in addition to delivering the pick that Jones returned for his fifth touchdown since the Falcons drafted the former LSU linebacker in the second round four years ago. Nathan Peterman, who spent part of his collegiate career with the Tennessee Volunteers, finished out the game at quarterback while Carr watched from the bench, a pained look on his face.
"When you turn the ball over like that, you're not going to win many games," Carr said. "It's a gut punch for sure."
The Raiders, who were held to a pair of field goals from Daniel Carlson, managed 243 yards and 13 first downs.
In addition to the season high for turnovers, the Raiders were flagged 11 times for 141 yards. A facemask penalty wiped out an interception. A roughing-the-kicker call allowed the Falcons to keep the ball after a missed field-goal attempt, and they wound up scoring the game's first touchdown.
Gambling on fourth-and-3 at the Las Vegas 4, Ryan double-pumped to buy just enough time to find Calvin Ridley alone in the back of the end zone with 2:17 left in a tedious first half that took nearly two hours to complete and ended with Atlanta up 16-3. Ryan, who finished 22-of-39 passing for 185 yards, added another 4-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, this one to Brandon Powell.
Ito Smith tacked on an 8-yard touchdown run after another Carr turnover, this one when Steven Means shoved left tackle Kolton Miller into the quarterback, causing the ball to slip out of Carr's hand just before his arm went forward for a throw.
"The defense put us in a lot of good positions," Ryan said. "That's the story of the day."
Atlanta's Younghoe Koo matched his career high with five field goals, connecting from 38, 39, 30, 29 and 54 yards. The former Georgia Southern kicker from South Korea has made 21 in a row.
Jones sealed the game early in the third quarter. Carr was swarmed by the rush and threw behind running back Devontae Booker on a short pass over the middle. The ball went right to Jones, who streaked all the way to the end zone with no one even close.
"Once I got in the clear, I put the ball up," Jones said. "I knew it was going home."
Carr's first two fumbles were recovered by third-string defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner. He showed exceptional athleticism on the second one, knocking it away from Carr and then scrambling to fall on the loose ball.
Said Tuioti-Mariner: "It was a good feeling to be out there, flying around with each other."