LONDON — Matt Ryan didn't have his top two wide receivers in London. The veteran quarterback did have rookie tight end Kyle Pitts and the versatile Cordarrelle Patterson — and that was enough for the Atlanta Falcons, especially with the New York Jets stumbling early again.
Ryan passed for 342 yards and two touchdowns, including the first NFL score for Pitts, and the Falcons held on and closed out the Jets in a 27-20 victory Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Falcons (2-3) built a 20-3 halftime lead with Ryan finding his teammates wide open despite the absence of receivers Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage. He was "pleasantly surprised" by how much separation his targets had from New York defenders.
"It was an opportunity for a number of our wide receivers to step up and make plays," Ryan said. "They had more playing time than they normally have."
The Falcons coughed up a late lead last weekend in a 34-30 home loss to Washington, but this time they finished off the win despite losing two fumbles that allowed New York (1-4) to stick around.
Zach Wilson and the Jets had trouble moving the ball, which has been the story of the rookie quarterback's season so far. Coming off his best game yet in last weekend's overtime win against the Tennessee Titans, Wilson was 19-of-32 passing for 192 yards and no touchdowns with one interception against the Falcons.
Pitts, taken by Atlanta two spots after Wilson at No. 4 overall in the NFL draft in April, had his best game yet with nine receptions for 119 yards.
After Patterson's 17-yard catch to New York's 2-yard line in the first quarter, the Falcons got a mismatch with defensive end John Franklin-Myers covering Pitts on first-and-goal. Ryan hit Pitts near the back right corner of the end zone to make it 10-0. Pitts, whose mother and father made the trip to watch him in person, said the Falcons had seen that coverage in video study of the Jets.
"I've been waiting on that all week, praying that that's how they were going to run it," Pitts said.
After another Jets three-and-out that included Wilson throwing behind Corey Davis, the Falcons ended a 77-yard drive with Hayden Hurst's 17-yard touchdown catch to make it 17-0.
Ryan finished 33-of-45 with no interceptions, and the 14-year veteran became the seventh NFL quarterback to reach 5,000 completions and surpassed Eli Manning for the eighth-most passing yards in league history.
He hit the milestones Sunday without Ridley, who didn't accompany the team to London "due to a personal matter," and Gage, who has been sidelined with an ankle injury.
Patterson continued doing a little of everything for the Falcons, and the Jets had few answers for him. The running back/wide receiver/kick returner had seven receptions for 60 yards and ran for a team-leading 54 yards on 14 carries. OK, maybe not "everything"; he was 0-for-1 passing, taking a handoff and throwing an incompletion.
The Jets struggled mightily again in the first half, gaining 80 yards and getting five first downs compared to the Falcons' 251 and 17 in the same span.
"We weren't able to get going in the first half," Jets first-year coach Robert Saleh said. "A couple three-and-outs. Couldn't get into a rhythm."
New York battled back in the second half with rushing touchdowns from Ty Johnson and Michael Carter, but it wasn't enough.
"We can't keep trying to come from behind," Wilson said. "The NFL is too hard to always come from behind. We have to find some way to move the ball from the beginning and get that confidence going."
Carter's 2-yard run and Jamison Crowder's catch on the 2-point conversion trimmed Atlanta's lead to 20-17 with 6:55 remaining.
The Falcons then finally found the dagger drive they've been missing in former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith's first season as their head coach, driving 75 yards in nine plays, the final one a 3-yard run by Mike Davis. On second-and-goal, Davis took the handoff, spun and got a collective push from his offensive linemen to get into the end zone and extend the lead to 27-17 with 2:19 to play. Davis finished with 53 yards on 13 carries.
The drive included Olamide Zaccheaus' 15-yard catch and dive for a first down to the Jets' 24 on third-and-13 after Ryan found Pitts for a 39-yard gain.
"Kyle got behind the defense. He's got incredible speed for a tight end," Ryan said. "That's not a thing most guys can do. That was a great play by Kyle and a really good call by Arthur Smith."
Matt Ammendola's 49-yard field goal made it 27-20, but the Jets' onside kick was recovered by Zaccheaus, sealing Atlanta's victory.
Both teams have an open date in the sixth week of the season and return to competition Oct. 24, with the Falcons visiting the Miami Dolphins and the Jets visiting the New England Patriots.