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AP photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson dives for a touchdown past Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack (44) during the first half of Sunday's game in Jacksonville, Fla. Patterson returned from an ankle injury to rush for 108 yards and two scores as the Falcons beat the Jaguars 21-14.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Atlanta Falcons finally found some room to run — just enough to help them stay on the fringe of the playoff picture in the NFC.

Cordarrelle Patterson rushed for a career-high 108 yards and two touchdowns in his return from an ankle injury, and the Falcons found the end zone and the win column for the first time in three weeks in a 21-14 victory Sunday over the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars.

Atlanta (5-6) finished with a season-high 149 yards on the ground, its most since October 2020.

"That's what good teams have to do," Falcons first-year coach Arthur Smith said. "We felt good about it, about the run game, regardless of what statistics and situations (say). Whatever. We kept chipping away. ...

"Obviously, having CP back adds an element. He's a warrior. He's a big, physical presence that can do a lot for us. And that's clear. Good to have him back."

The Falcons managed just a field goal in their previous two games, lopsided losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots in which they turned over the ball seven times and failed to score a touchdown in consecutive games for the first time since 1987.

They put an emphasis on playing smarter football at Jacksonville, and it paid off. It surely helped that the AFC South Division's Jaguars (2-9) made all the early mistakes on the way to their 13th straight loss against teams from the NFC.

Rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence threw an interception on Jacksonville's second series. James Robinson fumbled on their next possession.

Atlanta initially turned Robinson's turnover into a field goal, but Jaguars defensive lineman Roy Robertson-Harris was flagged for putting his hands on the center to gain leaping leverage. That gave the Falcons a new set of downs, and Patterson found a gaping hope up the middle for a 12-yard run to the end zone.

"That just shows you — we put our mind to it, we can't be stopped," Patterson said. "We've just got to keep building that confidence each and every week."

Patterson also had a 7-yard score on Atlanta's second possession.

"He was just taking the hole that was open," Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen said. "He did a good job finding those holes and making the best of them."

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AP photo by Phelan M. Ebenhack / Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage, top right, leaps over Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Tyson Campbell, center, and defensive end Dawuane Smoot after making a catch during the first half of Sunday's game in Jacksonville, Fla.

The Falcons led 14-0 and then 21-3 on Matt Ryan's touchdown pass to Russell Gage, but the Jaguars clawed their way back into the game late. Lawrence found Tavon Austin for a score, then connected with James O'Shaughnessy for a 2-point conversion, and Matt Wright added a 34-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to make it a one-score game.

Jacksonville forced a punt and got the ball back with 2:14 remaining, but Lawrence threw incomplete on four straight downs.

"It's frustrating," Lawrence said. "Our defense two times has put us in a situation to go win the game, and haven't been able to do it. So we've just got to get better and go make those plays in the biggest moments. I know we can do it, but we've got to go do it and that starts with me."

Lawrence was 23-of-42 for 228 yards, his most in a month, to go with a touchdown and an interception. He also ran five times for 39 yards on a day the Jaguars called more option plays and used an up-tempo approach at times.

"A little better," Jacksonville first-year coach Urban Meyer said. "I thought the coaches worked their tails off and we went some tempo, we went some pace a little bit, which I think our quarterback is used to that, and I think you'll see more of that."

Falcons tight end Keith Smith potentially turned a 10-yard gain into a memorable photo. He caught a short pass in the flat in the third quarter and bowled over Jaguars safety Andrew Wingard with a combination of his 240-pound frame and a vicious stiff-arm move.

Smith's play drew a raucous celebration from Atlanta's sideline. Wingard responded by slapping his hands together in disgust. Adding to Smith's moment, Fox replayed the moment three times from varying angles.

Atlanta's Dante Fowler got to perform his sack routine in his return to Jacksonville. The third overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft by the Jaguars, Fowler took down Lawrence for a 10-yard loss in the second quarter and forced a fumble.

Fowler beat tight end Chris Manhertz on a speed move around the edge and slapped the ball out of Lawrence's right hand. Although Manhertz recovered the loose ball, Fowler got to stand in the backfield and take a huge bow in which he swipes the ground. Jaguars fans got to see that celebration often in his 3 1/2 years with the franchise.

The Falcons return to NFC South play next Sunday, when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3). The reigning Super Bowl champions and current division leaders have shaken off back-to-back losses with wins against the New York Giants and Indianapolis Colts.

Atlanta lost 48-25 at Tampa Bay on Sept. 19 as Tom Brady improved to 3-0 against the Falcons in his time as the Bucs' quarterback.

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