The Falcons have a nickname for kicker Matt Bryant.
“He’s ‘Mister Automatic,’” safety William Moore said. “I didn’t have one doubt in my mind. He’s been coming through for us all season.”
With the Falcons’ high-octane offense running on fumes, and Mister Automatic having already misfired on a 43-yard first quarter attempt, Bryant hit from 55 yards with one second left to lift the Falcons to a 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
It was the Falcons’ third straight dramatic win in the fourth quarter and the 19th time that quarterback Matt Ryan has pulled out a win in the fourth quarter or overtime.
The Falcons needed a late touchdown run from running back Michael Turner with under three minutes to play to beat Washington 24-17 on Oct. 7.
Bryant made a 40-yarder to beat Carolina 30-28 with five seconds left on Sept. 30.
All of this late-game drama is taking its toll on the team.
“We have to cut it out with these nail bitters,” Moore said. “Overall, we’re going to have to finish ball games. I felt like we played down (to the Raiders’ level) a little bit.”
With the victory, the Falcons improved to 6-0 heading into their bye week. The Raiders dropped to 1-4.
Also, Falcons head coach Mike Smith joined Dan Reeves in team annals for most victories with 49. He could set the new mark with the Falcons face the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct. 28.
“Everybody is happy for Coach Smith,” Ryan said. “He’s done a great job since he’s been here and certainly everything that comes his way is deserved. We all love playing for him.”
With the passing game struggling and the power running game in moth balls somewhere, Ryan pulled things together in the final 40 seconds from the Falcon’s 20.
He started by completing a screen pass to Jacquizz Rodgers for 7 yards. He followed with a 4-yard completion to Harry Douglas, who scooted out of bounds.
After an incompletion, Ryan found tight end Tony Gonzalez for gains of 10 and 13 yards down to Oakland’s 37. With five seconds on the clock Bryant was summoned.
“It’s about handling the moment, whatever that is, managing it,” Bryant said.
The Raiders tried to ice Bryant with a timeout. He used that to get in a practice kick.
“In my opinion there are more good things that can come out of calling a timeout,” Bryant said. “I mean if you make the kick, you just conjure up that feeling of repeating that. If you miss it, then you know how to make the adjustments.”
Ryan had his worst game of the season. He completed 24 of 37 passes for 249 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. His passer rating of 59.4 was his lowest since he posted a 50.6 in a 17-10 loss at Houston on Dec. 4, 2011.
With the offense sputtering, the defense tried to drag the team to victory.
With the score tied 13-13 and the Raiders within field goal range, cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass intended for wide receiver Denarius Moore and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown with 2:40 to play.
“Making that mistake I made is crucial, it’s on me,” Palmer said. “It’s on me. It’s my fault.”
The Raiders didn’t fade. They promptly scored on a touchdown run by Darren McFadden to make it 20-20 with 40 seconds to left setting the stage for the latest dramatic drive.
Ryan, who had thrown three interceptions over the first five games, tossed three in the first half against the Raiders. The Raiders turned those three picks into 10 points en route to a 13-7 halftime lead.
On the fourth play of the game during the Falcons’ opening drive, Ryan tried to connect with Douglas on a crossing route, but Oakland cornerback Joselio Hanson cut underneath to pick off the pass.
The Falcons forced the Raiders to punt, but Ryan tossed his second interception on a deep pass intended for Julio Jones. Mike Huff intercepted the ball at Oakland’s 2-yard line.
The Raiders quickly got from the shadows of their goal posts when Palmer connected with Moore on a 49-yard pass play. The drive stalled and Sebastian Janikowski made a 52-yard field goal.
On the Falcons ensuing possession, Ryan got hot. He completed 7 of 7 passes on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Roddy White to make it 7-3.
Former Georgia Tech standout Philip Wheeler forced Ryan’s third interception. Wheeler blitzed untouched up the middle. When he slammed into the Ryan, the pass fluttered out and Oakland safety Tyvon Branch came down with it at Atlanta’s 28. The Raiders would score on a 25 yard pass two plays later.
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