DETROIT — Rookie quarterback Desmond Ridder threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jared Bernhardt with 1:30 left to give the Atlanta Falcons a win over the Detroit Lions.
The Lions took a 23-20 lead on Riley Patterson’s 28-yard field goal with 5:57 to play, then forced Atlanta into a three-and-out. Detroit quarterback David Blough, though, fumbled at his 33 with 2:00 left.
Facing fourth-and-9 from the 21 with 1:37 left, Atlanta coach Arthur Smith decided to avoid preseason overtime. Ridder dodged two pass rushers and Bernhardt fought off Cedric Boswell’s coverage attempt to make the catch just inside the end zone.
Ridder replaced Marcus Mariota after one drive and finished 10-for-22 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed six times for 59 yards, as Atlanta put up 168 yards rushing and just 139 passing.
Lions quarterbacks Tim Boyle and Blough, competing for the No. 2 job behind Jared Goff, both struggled. Boyle was 9-for-16 for 111 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Blough was 18-for-28 for 141 yards, but had a pass deflected and nearly intercepted in his own end zone with 3:42 left before his late fumble.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Deshaun Watson’s best play in his preseason debut with the Cleveland Browns came long before he took the field in Jacksonville.
Watson apologized Friday “to all the women I have impacted” after being accused by two dozen women of sexual misconduct during massage therapy sessions.
Potentially facing a year-long suspension, Watson publicly expressed remorse and contrition for the first time since he was accused of sexually harassing or assaulting the women during therapy sessions in 2020 and 2021.
He spoke before the team’s exhibition opener, a 24-13 victory against the Jaguars (0-2) in which Watson was roundly booed during three series of work. Fans in one end zone could be heard chanting vulgarities at Watson during his first drive.
The three-time Pro Bowler completed 1 of 5 passes for 7 yards in his first game action since Jan. 3, 2021, with Houston.
Jonathan Ward, trying to win a spot in a crowded Arizona backfield, ran for two touchdowns and the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Bengals in a preseason opener that saw starters for both teams watching from the sideline in street clothes.
Ward plunged in for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns in the second quarter.
Trace McSorley and Jarrett Guarantano, in competition to be the third-string quarterback, shared the snaps for the Cardinals. McSorley, who was signed midway through the 2021 season, threw for 163 yards and a touchdown to Andre Baccellia.
Guarantano, an undrafted free agent, was 7 for 10 for 54 yards and tossed a short touchdown pass to Jontre Kirklin.
The Bengals lost Brandon Allen, who backed up Joe Burrow last season, early in the game with a concussion. That left third-stringer Jake Browning to direct Cincinnati the rest of the way, except for a late appearance by undrafted free agent Drew Plitt.
PHILADELPHIA — New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson injured his right knee in the first quarter of Friday night’s preseason victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
After going back to pass with 4:29 left in the period, Wilson was flushed out of the pocket and scrambled to his right for 7 yards, but went down after the play. He appeared to injure his knee when planting to cut on Philadelphia’s grass field.
After being checked by trainers, Wilson limped to the sideline on his own power before heading to the locker room.
Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts looked sharp, completing all six of his pass attempts for 80 yards and a touchdown while playing just one series.
There are high hopes this year for the 23-year-old Wilson, who was drafted No. 2 overall last year. He had an up-and-down rookie season, throwing nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 13 games, but went without an interception in his final five games.
Wilson was shaky in his first series against Philadelphia’s starters, going 1 for 3 for 10 yards with an interception. Eagles linebacker Kyzir White stepped in front of Wilson’s intended pass for wide receiver Corey Davis and returned it 27 yards to the Jets 20 on what appeared to be a poor read by the New York quarterback. Wilson’s first pass of the game was a badly thrown out-route intended for rookie first-round pick Garrett Wilson.
Wilson struggled with accuracy last season, ranking last in the league in completion rate (55.6%) and passer rating (69.7). His decision-making and accuracy had looked better this summer during training camp.
Before his injury, Wilson was sharper in his second series, albeit against Philadelphia backups. He connected with tight end Tyler Conklin for 4 yards and then hit wide receiver Elijah Moore for 9 yards, finishing 3 for 5 for 23 yards and an interception.