There’s no doubting Falcons’ place among elite now

Roddy White is mobbed after catching the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining.

Roddy White is mobbed after catching the winning touchdown with 20 seconds remaining.

This is where we stop asking: How good are they?

This is where we stop asking: How far can they go?

Don’t wonder about Matt Ryan’s ability to win against elite competition, because he can.

Don’t wonder if Roddy White is a legitimate MVP candidate, because he is.

The Falcons’ slogan this season is “Rise up”  — and it has been a long time since an organization in this city rose this high and made this loud of a statement about its arrival among the league’s elite.

The Falcons punched through that “just pretty good” ceiling Thursday night at the Georgia Dome. They built a 20-7 lead against Baltimore, one of the NFL’s premier teams. They absorbed the Ravens’ counter-punches, falling behind for the first time in the game 21-20 with 1:05 remaining. Then they answered back — and that might have been the most impressive thing of all.

Ryan’s 33-yard touchdown pass to White with 20 seconds remaining gave the Falcons a 26-21 victory. The last gasp got them to their seventh win in nine games.

Stop wondering.

Matt Ryan threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns. (Photos by Jason Getz/AJC)

Matt Ryan threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns but no interceptions. (Photos by Jason Getz/AJC)

“We had a feeling that we belonged,” linebacker Mike Peterson said. “But you always wait for that statement game. You wait to play a team that everybody has put up on a pedestal so you can say, ‘We’ve arrived.’ We know now we can play with the best of them.”

It helps to have a quarterback like Ryan and a receiver like White. Ryan threw for 316 yards and three touchdowns. White had 12 catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns. Imagine how good he would’ve been if he wasn’t playing on a bad knee.

When John Abraham was asked how the Falcons can keep winning close games, he responded, “We have Roddy White.”

Once leading 20-7, the Falcons watched Joe Flacco lead the Ravens to consecutive touchdown drives to fall behind for the first time, 21-20.

There was 1:05 left. Plenty of time.

Ryan moved the offense 80 yards in seven plays. An eight-yard pass interference penalty on third down moved the ball to the Baltimore 33. Ryan looked for tight end Tony Gonzales, who was double covered, but White popped free at the Ravens’ 17. Why was he so wide open? White pushed down cornerback Josh Wilson. Ryan hit him with an easy pass for the score.

White said, smiling: “He tried to grab me so I pushed him down. You gotta do what you gotta do to win. Whatever it takes.”

The Falcons are doing just that. They won as dramatic a game as we’ve seen in some time on the stage of national television against the vaunted Ravens. They played as dominating a first half as possible, considering they led only 10-0. Running out of mostly a no-huddle offense, they dwarfed the Ravens statistically in almost every category, including total plays (43-17), first downs (12-4) and yardage (184-76).

It was the first meeting between Ryan and Flacco, two talented quarterbacks from the 2008 draft class — and Ryan certainly played like the guy who was supposed to be taken first. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He led an offense that converted an almost cartoon-like eight of 12 on third down. Flacco was 5-for-8 for 31 yards. His offense didn’t get across midfield.

The Falcons’ first scoring drive must have been demoralizing for a defense such as the Ravens’. It consumed 14 plays and 91 yards and included three third-down conversions. Teams just don’t do that to Baltimore.

The touchdown play made the Ravens look foolish: Everybody was covered except for the guy who caught the ball, Jason Snelling. He was left wide open in the flat from the Ravens’ 28, caught the toss from Ryan and took off for the end zone, running over safety Dawan Landry along the way.

Two field goals by Matt Bryant made the score 13-0 before the Ravens mounted an offense. But when they did, they were hard to stop. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Flacco to Anquan Boldin capped an efficient 65-yard, six-minute drive to make it 13-7. The Ravens scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions.

If there was one overwhelming message it was this: Both of these teams are good enough to see each other again at that final game at Cowboys Stadium.

The whole Ryan-Flacco storyline made for an interesting backdrop — especially since each could have wound up on the other team.

The Falcons had decided to draft Ryan with the third overall pick. They considered trading up to No. 2 with St. Louis to ensure they would get him, but decided to take a calculated risk — and it was a risk because the Ravens also liked Ryan. The story goes that Baltimore (in the 18th spot) offered the Rams a boatload of picks to swap places. St. Louis passed, and the Falcons exhaled.

Had the Ravens pulled off the trade, the Falcons would’ve taken LSU defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey. General manager Thomas Dimitroff likely would have followed that by attempting to trade up high enough with the team’s second pick for a shot at Flacco. Failing that, he kind of liked Michigan quarterback Chad Henne.

So instead of Ryan, the Falcons might’ve ended up with Dorsey and Henne as their top picks in 2008.

Quick. Somebody find some wood to knock on.

The hindsight report: Dorsey has been a disappointment in Kansas City. Henne was benched this week by Miami.

Dimitroff stating the obvious: “We obviously feel very fortunate the way everything worked out.”

And we know now that they have no ceiling.

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC and Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

919 comments Add your comment

jimmy

November 11th, 2010
11:50 pm

pete

November 11th, 2010
11:51 pm

Ryan looked awesome tonight

Roddy Whites Hands

November 11th, 2010
11:52 pm

I bet you were cussing me……….You love me.

Flowery Branch Yellow Jacket

November 11th, 2010
11:53 pm

Outstanding comeback! This team is fun to watch!

(Un-) Fair weather fan

November 11th, 2010
11:57 pm

“Game over. It will ranks as one of the more dramatic victories in franchise history”

Danny White’s ghost may not quite be exorcised just yet, but this was a HUGE step.

Fantastic moment for Matt Ryan and the Falcons!

(Un-) Fair weather fan

November 11th, 2010
11:58 pm

Oh and by the way, Matt Ryan has a killer gig as a commentator waiting for him when he hangs up his cleats. He’s running the show right now on the post-game panel

Reid in EAV

November 11th, 2010
11:59 pm

If the NFL is going to do this Thursday night thing, the next week needs to be a BYE!

That said, GREAT WIN! Loved it. The Chicago Bears game in 2008 taught me never to doubt Matty Ice in the late minutes at home.

Katherine

November 11th, 2010
11:59 pm

Congrats Falcons…great game and worth staying up for :)

Any Given Thursday

November 12th, 2010
12:00 am

Great win! This team is for real.

Ross

November 12th, 2010
12:02 am

Jeff, I think the Falcons had 0 turnovers. The Ravens had a fumble and an interception.

Kapoonka

November 12th, 2010
12:04 am

I’m going to sleep quite well tonight!!! I knew they would win..even with 1:05 left. Boston beating Miaimi tonight makes this a sports nuts Christmas!!! Yeah baby!!!!

PaulieOldschool

November 12th, 2010
12:05 am

You know what? This team might just go pretty far. I took this game v. the Ravens as a litmus test, to see where we actually stood. And I think we should be very proud of the team and very happy in this victory. Looking back, I see that we should have beaten the Squealers and would have if that game wasn’t played in Pittsburgh. The loss in Philly was just a beating, plain and simple. But I always said that you learn more from defeat than victory, and I think that the Falcons learned a lot that Sunday. Anyway, congrats to the team and, especially, Matt Ryan. Awesome game. He is simply a winner.

florida falcon

November 12th, 2010
12:06 am

The Dirty Birds are back!!!!!!!!!!

Denver Falcon

November 12th, 2010
12:06 am

these aren’t your parents’ Falcons….

TrishaDishaWarEagle

November 12th, 2010
12:06 am

Thank you refs!

DD795

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

Don’t go out tonight Ray Lewis is in town And he is pi$$ed.

Mike Franklin

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

ESPN will either have to find a lot of new announcers or invent some new catch phrases.

(Un-) Fair weather fan

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

Can you just imagine an NFL championship game between the Giants and the Falcons? In the Meadowlands or Ga Dome?

Tron5000

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

Reid, I’d say the week preceding the Thursday night game should be a BYE, not the next week. What, you want them to take 2.5 weeks off?

Ross

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

The 3 big stories of this game – 1 obviously Ryan with 3 TD passes, but 2, Turner was held to about 50 yards and they still won – should have been easier considering the dropped pass to White that would have cinched it more or less. They won without a running game. 3, Grimes was utterly victimized all night – that has to end. He’s in the right position but gets his body all twisted around – he’s too short to get away with that.

picasokat

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

These guys have the talent and these guys have no quit. That’s a winning combination. Schedule seems to turn in their favor from here.

Hummon

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

Beating that team with our running game stifled. Wouldn’t have thought it. This is pretty cool.

JB

November 12th, 2010
12:07 am

Great game Falcons…Finally I see the Off Coordinator using the pass on something other than 3rd down. Still wish we could seal the deal and not wait until the closing seconds to win one. And there should be no doubt at this point that Matt Ryan is an excellant QB. Great game.

picasokat

November 12th, 2010
12:08 am

Enter your comments here

merbertmoover

November 12th, 2010
12:08 am

“caw caw! caw caw!” quoth the falcon as she spread her mighty wings….”caw caw”

Brian VanGorder’s Mustache

November 12th, 2010
12:08 am

Any ladies want a ride?

picasokat

November 12th, 2010
12:08 am

Glory Glory

November 12th, 2010
12:08 am

FALCONS DAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

PTC DAWG

November 12th, 2010
12:09 am

Good win, but the game last week mean even more.

As a long time Falcons fan, I’m tired of folks doubting this team and regime. They look good to me.

gcs

November 12th, 2010
12:09 am

Okay, maybe I am starting to believe…

.

Stizz

November 12th, 2010
12:09 am

Falcons oh Falcons. This team is the real deal. While playing on the road against tough competition scares me, this team just flat out does not lose at home. If we can manage a 5-2 or 6-1 record the rest of the way and get homefield, this team will do damage in the playoffs.

Brian VanGorder’s Mustache

November 12th, 2010
12:09 am

Jimmy for being first, you can have a ride.

Gen Neyland

November 12th, 2010
12:11 am

This game reminded me of a double barreled shotgun. Even, to a point. When the last clay was tossed, the right pull was the knockout. Home Field, the stars were aligned and all was right with the world for 30 seconds. Kudos to Flaco and his birds that feed off road kill, but larger kudos to Ryan and his birds that feed off live kill. Oxymoron there..? Not in this game. Go Falcons and Go Vols

Mason

November 12th, 2010
12:13 am

Once again the Falcons #1 liability has been exposed, that being their stupid, obvious, incompetent idiot DC. Once again Ryan bailed his dumb a$$ out but they won’t be so lucky if they make the playoffs, that guy will blow the big games like he always does.

Get rid of that moron and the Falcons might go far, but they never will with him running the D…

gcs

November 12th, 2010
12:14 am

Now the Falcons get to rest 10 days before their next game…

.

ls1z28chris

November 12th, 2010
12:15 am

A bogus ruling on an incomplete pass and a missed offensive pass interference. Those two things in the last drive are what gave the Falcons the game. I was not impressed. This story reads like it was written at halftime, given a few edits to give cursory mention to the second half, and then submitted.

The Falcons barely survived, and only did so on the backs of bad officiating. This was nowhere near as convincing a victory as the beatdown the Saints put on the Steelers last week.

GTBoro

November 12th, 2010
12:17 am

Keep the throwback uniforms!

Sam

November 12th, 2010
12:17 am

The officials just beat the Baltimore Ravens. The Falcons will make it to the Super Bowl as long as the officials keep winning the games for them.

truth

November 12th, 2010
12:17 am

Great win!!!!!

Herschel Talker

November 12th, 2010
12:17 am

FIRE MARK RICHT

Jimmy

November 12th, 2010
12:18 am

I think the statement here was to those who whine about Flacco being better than Ryan.
Ryan passed for 316 yards. Flacco 215.
Where are all those idiots who kept calling Ryan a bust in his second season?
As he gets more experience…he improves.
He was certainly better than Flacco tonight.
He will always be better.

Magic Man

November 12th, 2010
12:18 am

Getting the feel of a special season here like the 91 Braves Like our remaining schedule and 12-4 or better looks very reasonable. If we can get homefield, we will be very tough to beat. Go Falcons!

truth

November 12th, 2010
12:20 am

Love the excuses Ravens fans. BWAA HA HA HA!!!!!!

QuitURWhining SAM

November 12th, 2010
12:22 am

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ajc sports editor, Wise_Diva, willmcjunkin, Howie Bruce, Kenneth and others. Kenneth said: RT @ajcsportseditor: Jeff Schultz on Falcons: One of the more dramatic victories in franchise history. http://bit.ly/dqnH0A [...]

Jimmy

November 12th, 2010
12:22 am

ls1z28chris

November 12th, 2010
12:15 am

That was pretty funny.
There were no bogus calls.
As for this being a less than convincing victory…
These were two evenly matched teams.
The game was close as it should have been.

Mason

November 12th, 2010
12:23 am

One other thing, admitting Sanders into the Ring of Honor makes a that a joke and dishonors those who spent most or all of their careers with the Falcons. Blank is out of his frigging mind…

truth

November 12th, 2010
12:24 am

Replay confirms……..no pass int on the last td drive.

truth

November 12th, 2010
12:25 am

LOVE IT!!!!!!!

GTMustang

November 12th, 2010
12:26 am

Z28Chris is pissed everyone…look out. He thought he could come on here and beat his chest about his Saints beating Pittsburgh last week, but that is dwarfed by the Falcons this week. Hah!

Oh and the ref’s don’t win or lose a game for any team and if so it’s rare. The reason the Ravens lost was because of a 20-7 deficit on the road.

GO FALCONS!!!!!!