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Maturing Falcons come through in clutch


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Maturing Falcons come through in clutch

By Terence Moore | Sunday, October 12, 2008, 07:34 PM

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It’s always dangerous to make assumptions about the direction of an NFL team for a season after a mid-October game, but there are exceptions.

Like this one.

Oh, about this one.

“I had my second child on Wednesday, and I thought I was going to have another one today,” said Falcons defensive end John Abraham, with a deep sigh. He was describing the outrageously tense moments down the stretch of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears. This was Six Flags over The Georgia Dome, but The Goliath inside the place wasn’t a roller coaster. It was the ebb and flow of a thriller that ended with the Falcons somehow managing a 22-20 victory at the final gun.

Simply put, these Falcons aren’t even distant cousins to those of Jim Mora and Bobby Petrino — you know, those clueless teams that spent the previous three seasons in a dramatic free fall to 8-8, 7-9 and then 4-12. These are the Falcons of first-year NFL coach Mike Smith, a veteran quarterback disguised as a rookie named Matt Ryan, rising running back Michael Turner, an opportunistic defense and hope.

How promising is the future for the Falcons this season? Defensive end Jamaal Anderson got his first NFL sack after 85 consecutive quarters. The Falcons’ previously maligned offensive line has allowed just two sacks during its last three games. And the Falcons previously maligned wide receivers actually are catching the ball.

In the clutch, too.

“Our approach right now is, whatever it takes for us to win, whether it’s something big or small,” said Falcons linebacker Michael Boley, who led the way to keep the Bears out of the end zone midway through the fourth quarter when the Bears ran on third and fourth downs from the Falcons’ 1-yard line. “We’re about to go into our bye week, so we really wanted to come in here and win and be 4-2.”

No problem there. In fact, the Falcons proved during the most improbable victory you’ll ever see that many things are now possible for this youthful bunch. That’s because they continued their sprint out of nowhere to do all sorts of strange things in this one, and most were good.

A few were bad (five field goals to one touchdown). Then again, several were great, beginning and ending with the fact that the Falcons somehow won a game that they had lost, then won, and then lost again before shocking the Bears with The Throw, The Catch and The Kick.

The Throw involved Ryan continuing his brilliant passing day (22-for-30 for 301 yards and a touchdown) near the end of the afternoon by delivering a perfect sideline pass to Michael Jenkins. The Catch involved Jenkins’ fancy footwork after The Pass to complete a 26-yard play at the Bears’ 30-yard line. Suddenly, “one” was the number of the moment. Not only did the Falcons trail by one, but there was one second left on the clock.

It was time for The Kick, a 48-yarder from Jason Elam that took forever to fly over the crossbar for the game-winner. There was an explosion of joy throughout the dome, ranging from those among the sellout crowd that wasn’t wearing Chicago orange and blue to Ryan literally jumping into the arms of Smith at the 50-yard line.

“I mean, I’m still just a kid, really,” said Ryan, chuckling, after another impressive game as a rookie. “When you’re out there playing, you certainly feel as if you’re 10, 11, 12 years old. It’s kind of the same way. It doesn’t change. I was crossing my fingers and doing everything else that you can do until that kick went through.”

Then the kick went through, and the NFL kids on the Falcons were closer to becoming NFL grown-ups

:P

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