In a thrilling finish, the Atlanta Falcons have beaten the Oakland Raiders 23-20 following a clutch 55 yard field goal in the final seconds by Mat Bryant at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
Matt Ryan had a terrible start as he was intercepted three times in the opening half by Raiders’ Tyvon Branch, Michael Huff and Joselio Hanson. He wasn’t the only one losing the ball as a Darren McFadden fumble led to an early Falcons field goal attempt – although this was missed by Bryant. The Raiders were the first team to score thanks to a Sebastian Janikowski 55 yard field goal following a 49 yard reception by Danarius Moore.
Despite his struggles, Matt Ryan did get the first touchdown of the day in the second quarter on a short pass to Roddy White thanks to an efficient drive that was all no-huddle offense. After a bit of back and forth with Ryan’s third interception amongst the action, it was the Raiders who took charge going into the half-time break with Danarius Moore taking a short pass by Carson Palmer and using some very nice footwork to take it all the way for a 25 yard touchdown. Oakland led Atlanta 13-7 at the break.
In the early part of the third quarter it was all about the defenses. There was little offensive action until a remarkable catch from Falcons WR harry Douglas who somehow managed to make a catch after it bounced off an opposing DB and fell into his hands as he lay on the ground. That drive resulted in a 41 yard field goal and the Falcons brought the lead down to three points. It was soon all tied up as Falcons defensive end John Abraham came up with a big sack-fumble on Carson Palmer that was recovered by his fellow DE Ray Edwards. That led to the only other score of the quarter – a 20 yard field goal for Bryant that made it 13-13.
The fourth quarter was as competitive as the third with both teams pushing for field position but both defenses holding fast. The defining play of the quarter came on defense when Falcons CB Asante Samuel earned his paycheck with an intercept of Carson Palmer that he took 78 yards for a touchdown to give Atlanta a 20-13 lead with 2:40 left on the clock. However, the Raiders refused to give in. Derek Hagan made a great play on a tight pass from Carson Palmer for 38 yards which led to a 2 yard Darren McFadden touchdown to tie things up.
With only 40 seconds left, it looked like we might head to overtime. Sebastian Janikowski made a good kick-off resulting in a touchback. Matt Ryan then showed why he has been an early MVP favorite as he marched his team 43 yards down the field. With 5 seconds left and following a time-out by each team, Mat Bryant stepped up and slotted home the game-winning 55 yard field goal to give the Falcons their first 6-0 start in franchise history.
Oakland have plenty to take away from this game as they forced their first three interceptions of the season, Carson Palmer threw for 353 yards with only one pick and Darren McFadden had an efficient 27 carries for 70 yards and a TD, albeit it with a lost fumble. The Falcons will have plenty to work on as Matt Ryan shown poor decision making at times, the secondary got mauled for most of the day and the running game did very little with perhaps most concerning of all was the inability to get a touchdown when they were handed the ball on the opposition 2 following the fumble by Palmer.
Next week the Oakland Raiders go back home to receive the struggling Jacksonville Jaguars while the Atlanta Falcons have their bye week to celebrate their perfect 6-0 start.