BCEagleATLFalcon Posted October 4, 2010 Share Posted October 4, 2010 Led by resolute Roddy, the Falcons win another test of wills5:35 pm October 3, 2010, by Mark BradleyAnother week, another Bryant winner. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)Three times in four weeks, the Falcons have been handed a second chance. The Steelers’ kicker missed at the end of regulation. The Saints’ kicker missed in overtime. On Sunday the San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements made a game-saving interception but wound up granting the Falcons a mulligan.Three times in four weeks, the Falcons have been massively fortunate. Two times of the three, they’ve won a game they coulda/shoulda lost. And you know what this says? That this team is simply living on its luck?Nope. It says this could well be the Falcons’ year.Talent-wise, not much separates one NFL team from another. The reason the Falcons are 3-1 is that they’re skilled but also scrappy. They can take a punch. They can get hit hard and hit back harder. If another team wants to offer a gift, they’re happy to take it. And they will, no matter what, keep playing until the end.Said Mike Smith, the coach: “You’re always glad to win the battle of wills.”Said Harvey Dahl, the guard who fell on the fumble that saved the game: “We definitely had to give everything to get away with that one.”Said Roddy White, the All-Pro receiver who forced the fumble that saved the game: “It speaks volumes about our team.”The Falcons spent 59 minutes playing as if still in the throes of a New Orleans hangover. They fell behind 14-0 after 10 1/2 minutes. Their defense kept them afloat, but their failure to mount an offense had them circling the drain.With 90 seconds left Matt Ryan an interception that had “ballgame” written all over it. Kind of like Troy Polamalu’s did in Pittsburgh last month, and that one didn’t doom the Falcons because Jeff Reed missed a kick. (The Steelers would, however, win in overtime.)This time White took matters in his own desperate hands. He pursued Clements, first at a distance, then drawing ever nearer. “I kept thinking, ‘Just get there, just get there,’ ” White said, and finally he did. “I punched at it as hard as I could.”And the ball came loose. And Dahl, who’d run 50 yards to be in position, threw himself atop it. “It was kind of all over,” Dahl said, describing the wild mood swing of those 10 or so seconds, “and then we had a burst of life.”Having already failed on what looked to be a win-or-else drive, the Falcons had a reprieve. They were one yard farther back and 2:18 further along, but they had the ball and a chance. Said White: “I knew we were going to score.”Ryan had had a tepid day. The blitzing Niners had throw him off rhythm. He’d been sacked three times and intercepted twice. The final drive commenced with 1:22 remaining, at which point he’d completed 20 of 34 passes. He started with two more incompletions. Then he won the game, completing six of seven, one of which might have been the best throw of his professional life.Second-and-6 from the Atlanta 41 with 57 seconds left: Ryan delivered high and hard down the right sideline, and somehow White snatched it. “That was a great throw,” White said. “It had a little steam on it.”The 20-yard gain pushed the Falcons to the San Fran 39, nearly into field-goal range. One more first down did the trick, and Matt Bryant booted the winner with two seconds remaining. For those keeping score at home, the Falcons led for only those two seconds. Not that anyone cared.Said Smith: “You’ve got to make plays when plays present themselves.”And that’s where this team is, four games into what has become a most promising season. The Falcons have proved they’ll fight hard enough to stay in every game, and they’ve proved they’re gifted enough to make the requisite plays to win against any team, be it the reigning Super Bowl champion or the 0-4 Niners.To watch the Falcons is to feel they’re still not quite running at peak capacity, and when you’re 3-1 and you can say that … well, that’s a good thing. It means this resourceful bunch can take this happy start and run with it. Maybe all the way into February. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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