The New York Jets won the first half of their NFL exhibition opener plus the first minute of the third quarters 17-0, with their starting units on the field, but the Atlanta falcons countered by bringing reserve quarterback June Jones off the bench in the second half, and Jones mapped out three touchdown drives to give the Falcons a 20-17 victory. Lightning and heavy rain cut the game short with 1-39 left to play.
With Coach Walt Michaels using the 17-0 advantage to look at his rookes. Jones bulled a yard for one touchdown, threw an 11-yard TD pass to James Wright in the third period and put Atlanta in front with 9:30 left when he hit Alfred jackson on a fourth-and-nine from the Jet 31.
"I was kinda looking at it like a college game - they had a lot of rookies out there," said Jones, a second-year man out of Portland State. "Alfred can fly. He's very deceptive with his long stride and I didn't get touched. The line was super."
"I think this victory means a great deal," said Jackson, who caught four passes for 105 yards. "It's important to win the first game. It should help us down the stretch."
Said Atlanta Coach Leeman Bennett: "The first half was very, very poor. We didn't execute. The Jets outhit us. I was very impressed with Jackson. If we play the way we did in the second half, we'll have a pretty good season."
In the only other exhibition game in the NFL, the New York Giants took Cleveland, 21-7.
Reserve running back Willie Spencer carried three yards for one touchdown and set up another with a 55-yard run to pace the Giant's in the exhibition opener for both teams.
Spencer's 55-yard gain took the Giants to the Brown's 15-yard line early in the fourth quarter, setting up a 15-yard TD pass by reserve quarter back Jerry Golsteyn to rookie running back Billy Taylor, which gave New York a 14-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Spencer caped an eight-play, 56-yard Giant drive with his three-yarder. Joe Pisarcik, the Giant's starting quarterback, directed the club on its first scoring drive.
The Browns scored on a 15 yard pass from reserve quarterback Terry Luck to rookie wide receiver Keith Wright with 1:20 left in the game. The key play in the drive was a 29-yard pass from Luck to Keith Fimian.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Browns recovered an onside kick and had an opportuity to tie the game. But defensive end Jack Gregory intercepted a tipped pass from Luck and raced 38 yards for the Giants' final score.