Falcons need late-heroics to down Panthers 30-28

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez celebrate a 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers to remain undefeated at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and tight end Tony Gonzalez celebrate a 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers to remain undefeated at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

 

After pulling off his latest stunt of late-game magic, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was more than a little stoked.

Ryan’s unlikely 59-yard pass to Roddy White in the closing seconds helped set up a game-winning field goal as the Falcons pulled out a scintillating 30-28 victory over Carolina Sunday. The team improved to 4-0 for just the third time in franchise history and the first time since 2004.

That was quite enough excitement for the usually placid Ryan, who was seen yelling in the general direction of the Panthers “to get the [expletive] off my field” as he made his way off the Georgia Dome turf.

Simmered down later, he admitted, “It was just the heat of the battle.”

Right. But it was that kind of unforgettable day, reminiscent of a win over Chicago in his rookie season of 2008. This time, starting at his own 1-yard line, Ryan drove the Falcons into position for Matt Bryant’s 33-yard field goal with five seconds left. Bryant kick was dead-centered.

“That was a huge game for us and a great win for our team,” Ryan said. “It took us all 60 minutes this week and we knew coming into this game that it was going to be a tough one.”

It was defensive end John Abraham who set up the winning drive with a timely

Falcons running back Michael Turner breaks free for a first down past Carolina Panthers James Anderson, right, and Captain Munnerlyn during the first half at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012

Falcons running back Michael Turner breaks free for a first down past Carolina Panthers James Anderson, right, and Captain Munnerlyn during the first half at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012

forced fumble. On a third-and-2 from Atlanta’s 46, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had picked up a critical first down on a run, only to have Abraham knock the ball loose and, more importantly, backwards to the 45. The Panthers recovered but after trying to draw the Falcons offsides on fourth-and-1, they elected to punt instead.

Carolina downed Brad Nortman’s punt down at the 1-yard line with 59 seconds left. Atlanta had no timeouts.

“I was surprised,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said about the Panthers not going for it on fourth down. “[Newton] has a big body. He’s long and you thought he’d just quarterback-sneak it. But it would have been a definite gamble.”

Newton, now 0-2 as a Panther playing in his hometown, supported Carolina coach Ron Rivera’s decision to punt.

“Well, I’m a player on this football team and I listen to coaching,” Newton said. “And coach decided not to go for it on fourth down, so I back coach 110 percent.”

The Falcons’ offensive line, which struggled all day, held up at the end as Ryan dropped back to within a yard of the back of the end zone and launched a bomb to the White. He hauled in the pass over Carolina safety Haruki Nakamura at the Panthers 40.

Atlanta Falcons defenders Ray Edwards (clockwise from upper left), William Moore, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas gang tackle Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert during second half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons defenders Ray Edwards (clockwise from upper left), William Moore, Akeem Dent and Stephen Nicholas gang tackle Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert during second half action at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

After Gonzalez and Harry Douglas took quick receptions and got out of bounds for consecutive gains of 7 and 6 yards, Bryant was sent out to win the game.

“It’s very good to know that you’ll be able to handle the ebbs and flows of an NFL football game,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “It was just a matter of time before we were going to have to play from behind. … I thought it showed the mettle of the guys in that room.”

It was remarkable that Ryan had time to throw long. Carolina’s pass rush had been relentless, sacking Ryan a career-high seven times and accumulating 12 quarterbacks hits.

“He came into the huddle and said, ‘Block it up so that we can make a big play,’” White said. “Those guys are focused. They did a hell of a job.”

White, who had eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, used some crafty route-running to get open.

“They were trying to keep everything in front of them, but the guy kind of missed a jam when I went out there,” White said. “I got behind those guys.”

White also sensed that Ryan was coming his way.

“He told me to go get it,” White said. “So I knew he was throwing it to me.”

The Panthers, who hadn’t played since being routed by the New York Giants 36-7 on Sept. 20, played a rough-and-tumble game. For the second straight game against the Falcons, they had them on the ropes, but failed late. Last season in Charlotte, Carolina held a 23-7 halftime lead on Atlanta before losing 31-23.

“It was a good lesson to learn,” White said. “A lot of these games are going to be close. When you get an opportunity to move on as team, you do it and you carry a lot of confidence with you.”

The division foes went back-and-forth most of the game. White’s two touchdown catches gave the Falcons a 17-14 halftime lead. That advantage grew to 24-14 on the first possession of the second half, Ryan tossing a screen pass to Michael Turner, who rumbled for 60 yards and the first touchdown reception of his NFL career.

But Carolina answered on its next possession with a 4-yard touchdown run by Newton to make it 24-21. Asked to compete harder by Rivera after the Giants embarrassment, the Panthers were up for the challenge, adding an 81-yard touchdown drive to take a 28-24 lead, Kealoha Pilares scoring from 36 yards out with 7:55 left.

Bryant, who had already connected from 41 yards, kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:58 to shave the lead to one point and set up his final heroics. He has yet to miss a field goal in nine attempts thus far.

317 comments Add your comment

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

I am too wore out to fool with any trolls…………..hehehehe…..but heck………..hey choke, Matt Ryan assassinated all that gargle you been spitting out on him just in the game TODAY Son………………..

Matt "CHOKE" Ryan

September 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Hey guys. I am sorry I have no life. All I have to go by are things from the past. I really know nothing about the NFL. I actually have a crush on Ryan and would love to be with him someday. It’s just that no women like me so I figured I would try the other side. Thanks.

Buzzman

September 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Hats off to all of the Falcons. If I was Matty Ice, I would be talking with my offensive line, don’t you know that Matty will be sitting in a vat of ice tonight. Way to hang in their Matt. I’m sure Mike Smith will correct the offensive line. He does not need to lose Matt to a sack this year…..Protect the Quarterback.

Smitty

September 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Just like the UGA-UT game, all that counts is the final score.

Boo

September 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Too close for comfort. But I’ll take it!!

wolfman

September 30th, 2012
5:02 pm

Maybe Cam is crying because he makes less in the NFL than at Auburn.

Big Ray

September 30th, 2012
5:03 pm

Cam just learned a hard lesson.

He’s a “big play” QB, has a “big play” mindset.

He has to learn how to manage a game, not just “win” a game. Every good QB has to learn this. Every great one learns it quickly.

Cam still isn’t a leader. He has to learn that as well. Again, it’s a hard lesson. He thought he did everything he needed to do to win that game. But he didn’t.

So he and the Panthers lost. The guy who is ahead of that curve won with his team.

Cam has a ways to go. He can ask Ryan how that is. It ain’t easy. Difference is Ryan won a hell of a lot more than Cam is winning right now.

htwo0rider

September 30th, 2012
5:04 pm

Ryan won’t survive the season if this continues….the birds were very lucky today. 7 SACKS!!!!!! are you kidding me! Why wasn’t pass protection addressed in the off season?????? The same line from last year……Carolina has a good pass rush, and look what happens…I wanna believe, but….

extremus

September 30th, 2012
5:04 pm

Wow, I was sweating just watching the game on my (finally televised in my area by FOX!!) TV. I had a bad feeling that the Panthers would come in ready to play, and they gave the Falcons more than they wanted, that’s for sure.

The offensive line that had only allowed like 4 sacks before today looked like they were taking the day off, and Matt Ryan paid for it. Charles Johnson made Clabo and the rest of our line look very much like the 2011 version we’d all like to forget. The Falcons HAVE to address this ASAP or Ryan’s season (and a potential special season for the whole team) could go up in smoke. He can’t keep taking hits like that.

Still, an awesome win. This year’s Falcons have now won blowing teams out and grinding till literally the final seconds. That’s a promising formula.

MG3

September 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

Great win, let’s put the arm strength crap to bed once and for all. MR2 is a winner, period! Playoff record stinks and we all know that, but the dude wins games and right now it looks like we’ll be in the tournament again for the 4th time in 5 years. Falcons have never enjoyed success like this. And I love Julio, but Roddy is second fiddle to no one. He may be the most clutch players on this team.

ijonathan

September 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

Uh…DOL, please, please have someone edit your blog post. wow.

DJ Sniper

September 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

Man, that game still has my blood pressure up! Congrats to my dirty birds for a hard fought win! Was it pretty? Damn sure wasn’t. Did the O-line do a crappy job protecting Matt Ryan? You bet they did. Still, when things don’t always go your way and you still pull out the win, that’s the mark of a good team.

We will definitely have to correct some things before we visit the Redskins next week. And I’m also wondering if Julio Jones’s hand injury is more serious that we think?

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:07 pm

Falcons 4 – 0

Turner has a big day……………..
White has a nice day……………………….
Matt Ryan assassinated ” Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan today…………………………….

Big Daddy

September 30th, 2012
5:08 pm

One of the great comebacks in Falcon history. Panthers made two really big mistakes at the end. One, letting White get behind their defense on that long pass play and Cam fumbling the ball instead of holding on getting the first down. Thanks, Panthers. Great win!!! GO FALCONS!!!!

extremus

September 30th, 2012
5:08 pm

@DJ Sniper,

Interesting take on Julio Jones. It was very noticeable that Ryan wasn’t going to him all of the first half and most of the second (and when he did, more often than not the pass got muffed somehow). Could it be that Jones was in the game simply to give the Panthers someone to worry about to take coverage away from White? I sure hope not.

the truth

September 30th, 2012
5:08 pm

“Matt Ryan assassinated ” Matt ‘Choke’ Ryan today”
Better wait until he wins a playoff game before you make a post like this one.

DJ Sniper

September 30th, 2012
5:09 pm

And did ya’ll see Matty Ice dropping some F-bombs on the sidelines after the game winning FG? LOL!!!!!

Whiznot

September 30th, 2012
5:09 pm

Everyone knew that there was no chance that Matt Bryant would miss. We have a throwing Matty Ice and a kicking Matty Ice. Oh yeah, it’s an absolute fact that Roddy White is the best receiver in football! Go Falcons.

Mora less Petrino

September 30th, 2012
5:09 pm

369 yards for Ryan! Pack leading the Caints in the 2nd quarter in Green Bay. Braves won! Nice day in ATL so far.

dirtybirdJ

September 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

i turned the TV too soon it aint over till the fat bitch sings

Cam Newton

September 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

Awww man! You mean I put my dance on for nothing!

BTCV

September 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

Nobody edits this blog. Nobody.

Therefore…

Happy crappy poopy-pants!
The Aints probably have small wienies.
I put condoms in old people’s shopping carts at Walmart when they’re not looking….

Whiznot

September 30th, 2012
5:11 pm

So Far? Are you expecting maybe an earthquake?

DJ Sniper

September 30th, 2012
5:11 pm

@Extremus:

I also noticed that Ryan wasn’t looking for Jones that much. I also noticed that the couple of times he did throw towards him, the defender was able to knock the pass away. Usually, Julio will snatch passes like those regardless of who’s covering him. Maybe they know something we don’t.

44counter

September 30th, 2012
5:13 pm

Roddy has his haters whenever he drops a pass but today Roddy said not too fast Julio, I’m still the #1 receiver on this team. Roddy would have easily kept both of his feet in bounds on the play Julio didn’t.

It’s still early (1/4 down), but I just have this feeling…..I was alittle nervous after Julio’s out of bounds catch but this team has ALOT OF CONFIDENTS. This finally could be the Birds’ 1995.

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:14 pm

Screw the naysayers and the trolls………………….we are the Team you got to beat………………………………………

me

September 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

Can’t win consistently giving up 7 sacks and about 6-7 hurries….

But in the NFL a W is a W.

me

September 30th, 2012
5:17 pm

@44counter

Roddy has his haters whenever he drops a pass but today Roddy said not too fast Julio, I’m still the #1 receiver on this team. Roddy would have easily kept both of his feet in bounds on the play Julio didn’t.

Fortunately, Roddy realizes he is getting more good looks this year because of Julio. Obviously, you don’t realize this. Why are trying to put them in competition. Roddy got his big payday, now he just wants to get a ring. Every big time team has 2 big time receivers.

The Falcon Project

September 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

DJ Sniper

September 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

I think our O line will recover. Every team has at least 1 game where the line plays like crap. I think we go to Washington and protect Ryan like their lives depended on it. Keep in mind that the ‘Skins lost of their best pass rushers for the season.

Mora less Petrino

September 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

No earthquake, just holding for the Caints to be 0-4 to put the cherry on top.

ToccoaBird

September 30th, 2012
5:19 pm

It’s a win.

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:20 pm

Can’t cut the Panthers……………their best game they played this year………..they keep playing like that and they will win a lot of games this Season……………………….

me

September 30th, 2012
5:20 pm

@DJ Sniper

“Maybe they know something we don’t.”

Wow what an Einstein moment for you. It’s called cover 2. Julio is stretching the field and Roddy is going under/across. If the Oline had shown up at all, Julio would have got more balls. Giving up 7 sacks and 5 or 6 hurries is just bad. Panthers were not blitzing.

BringThePain

September 30th, 2012
5:22 pm

Ron Rivera needs to fire his entire defensive staff for such bonehead scheming on that last drive. You could have put a high school team out on the field and they would have been smart enough to know that you should put up a zone defense to prevent the long ball at all costs. That is the only chance they had to do anything… AND FROM THE 1 YARD LINE??? Come on Carolina. You EARNED that loss! Chumps!

Jasmin

September 30th, 2012
5:24 pm

4-0 Baby! Great game Falcons. Matt Ryan did his thing but we had some issues with catching the ball…Julio Jones…Also, Matt Ryan took too many hits from Johnson and I’m sure his body aches right now. We need to defend our QB better if we expect to have him the rest of the season. Shout out to Bryant our kicker. You came through when you were needed! On to the Redskins!

FalconTide

September 30th, 2012
5:25 pm

Jasmin

September 30th, 2012
5:25 pm

I hope Greenbay dominates the Saints!

KQuark

September 30th, 2012
5:25 pm

Super win congrats to all the Falcons for toughing it out.

I knew it was going to be tough all division games are.

I don’t want to hear one mindless football talking head try to say Ryan has a weak arm. He threw two balls over 60 yards for completions even after he got his hand dinged up.

I don’t know what was up with the right side of the line today but Clabo and Johnson need to pick it up.

It was great to see the burner back. Thanks to the emergence of Rogers having less carries is really keeping him fresh.

Julio has to work on his route running. He’s just not giving Ryan a big enough window to throw in.

4-0 Bird

September 30th, 2012
5:27 pm

Great win but we could have used Ovie in the backfield to help against Charles Johnson. I say put in a call to him.

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:28 pm

lol…………….Falcon Tide……………..think Matt isn’t fired up ? hehehehe

MONK ATL

September 30th, 2012
5:33 pm

dont EVER bring up Matt “Choke” Ryan again, This QB is a Player. Nice Win on True Grit, Now Falcons,
KEEP your Sleeves rolled UP! RISE UP ATL.

Michael M.

September 30th, 2012
5:35 pm

uhoh……………..its 21 – 7 Packers…………………….hardy har har………………………………..

falCANS

September 30th, 2012
5:35 pm

0-4 vs 4-0… Good to be a Falcon…Game ball. I wasnt scared foe a second. Matty ICE . Just what he does. Turner was Burner tonight. Roddy top WR this yeat

FalconTide

September 30th, 2012
5:36 pm

yeah and he should be fired up. Clutch!

RLynn

September 30th, 2012
5:39 pm

Coach Smith owes his Asst Coach a public apology for obviously losing his cool under pressure. It’s well documented Coach Smith is a good guy, but his behavoir was frickin’ unacceptable no matter the game conditions at the time. I’m a Falcons fan in Jax Bch & don’t get local coverage so hopefully he’s already done the right thing.

44counter

September 30th, 2012
5:40 pm

@me- you missed my point. I’m talking to the people who have commented on here, especially last year, and said Roddy needs to go. He had the most drops last year but he also had the most passes thrown to him. Just last week, it was reported that since 2008 he has led the league with most yards receiving. Competition??….I don’t think you get to this level and not compete, even with your own teammates.

Sonic Boom

September 30th, 2012
5:43 pm

It was obvious that Carolina came to play today. This game was fought hard by both teams. Like it has been said before, when it comes to these divisional games, you can throw out the records.

With that being said, The Falcons got beat up today, but still found a way to win. And that is what good teams do. The ball is truly bouncing our way right now. To be honest, we needed a game like this today to show our internal fortitude. Not saying that we’re gonna win every game, but we needed to have one of those grind-it-out wins to show that we can come from behind…..GO FALCONS!!!!!!!

Rufus

September 30th, 2012
5:45 pm

I think Matt said something like “get off my effing field.”

jojo

September 30th, 2012
5:49 pm

well. you gotta admit Cam played a heck of a game—– until he fumbled. But Riviera should have gone for the first down instead of punting– even if they did down it at the one. Still, Mattie-Ice and Roddy were amazing today. The offensive line was atrociously bad.. A win is a win is a win. Now on to the next WIN.