The Falcons lose a close one but again find a quarterback

Tony Gonzalez rises above Michael Boley and sends it to overtime. (AP photo)

Tony Gonzalez rises above Michael Boley and sends it to overtime. (AP photo)

East Rutherford, N.J. — The Falcons lost a game but saved a season. If that sounds convoluted … well, try this: On the day the  Falcons fell to 5-5, they nonetheless demonstrated why this will be that forever-sought second consecutive winning season.

Or this: The Falcons lost a game but found a quarterback.

The first half was wretched. It ended with the Falcons down 17-7 but was far more distressing than that. The defense was awful, which we’ve come to expect, and Matt Ryan was just as bad, which has become a recent phenomenon. But in the second half things changed: The defense was still bad, but the Iceman again, er, cameth.

Ryan in the first half: Six completions in 11 attempts with a long gain of 18 yards, two sacks, one fumble. Ryan in the second: Twenty completions in 35 attempts, two touchdowns, no turnovers, no sacks. The first half he looked like a rookie, and this is the guy who never looked like a rookie when he was one. The second half he looked like a pro.

Said Tony Gonzalez, who caught seven second-half passes including the overtime-inducing touchdown with 28 seconds left in regulation: “There’s definitely some confidence to be taken from this.” And then: “It’s just unfortunate we couldn’t have gotten the ball [to start OT]. ”

Well, yes. The Falcons lost the coin toss — for the second time Sunday, Ryan called “tails”; he was 0-for-2 on coin tosses — and never touched the ball again except when Michael Koenen’s toe met leather. The Giants moved expeditiously, as you figured they would. (New York gained 456 yards on the day, 384 on Eli Manning’s passes.) And that was that. Game effort in a big game but ultimately a loss.

But not totally a loss. At halftime it was possible to see the Falcons as a a team going way wrong. They’d lost three of four after starting 4-1, and now they were playing as if overmatched and overwhelmed. Even with a kind schedule the rest of the way, there was no guarantee this team playing this way would break .500, let alone slide into the playoffs.

The second half, however, made us rethink. This defense won’t ever be anything of substance, but this offense still has that potential. The Falcons won’t play a better defense than New York’s, and at some point Michael Turner will return.

Matt Ryan returned Sunday. He played scared in the first half. Nobody associated with the Falcons would admit as much, but there seemed no other explanation. Having thrown 10 interceptions over the past five games, he was unwilling to risk throwing anything chancy, anything deep. The result was an offense that dared little and still yielded a turnover when Ryan held it too long.

The second half was a transformation. Said Roddy White: “We knew we had to go out and score. And we were on the field so long the defense got tired.”

These were the Falcons’ second-half possession: Touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown — all on drives of 63 yards or longer. Ryan was again letting it fly, stepping into the teeth of the mighty Giant rush. Said Gonzalez: “We were on a roll. We moved the ball up and down the field.”

If this season is to be saved, the offense must do the saving. On Sunday the offense surged from 14 points back to force a fifth quarter. And that offense playing that way can still hoist this team to 10-6 and a wild card.

Said Ryan: “As a quarterback, you have to continue to play the way you’re supposed to play.” His perseverance bore fruit Sunday. He fought through the first downturn of his NFL career and nearly conjured up an astonishing victory.

He’ll be fine now. His team — the offensive part, anyway — will be fine, too. “There are no moral victories,” Ryan said, but on this he was wrong.

384 comments Add your comment

preston

November 22nd, 2009
5:58 pm

HAHA FIRST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

preston

November 22nd, 2009
5:58 pm

FINALLY YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

Mark Bradley

November 22nd, 2009
5:58 pm

Kudos, Preston.

Hawksfan

November 22nd, 2009
6:00 pm

falcons suck go Hawks J-Smoooooooooooooooooove for the jam oooooooooooo jam!!!

Scott Case

November 22nd, 2009
6:00 pm

I was hoping we would go for two and try to steal it there at the end. Oh well.

Great Falconi

November 22nd, 2009
6:03 pm

Nice to see the ol’ Bradley spin come out after a loss. I agree with you, though. Ryan threw the ball like a man late in the game. If he can do that the next three weeks, maybe we win two out of three and find ourselves in really good shape for, if nothing else, that elusive second consecutive winning season. I want the playoffs, but I know this team has many flaws. 9-7 would be acceptable to me.

John

November 22nd, 2009
6:04 pm

If you’re Mike Smith, why not go for two at the end? There’s less than a minute remaining in the game, you have a very shaky defense and you’re on the road. At that point, you’re basically just hoping you win the coin toss to start OT.

Nick

November 22nd, 2009
6:05 pm

I like the way our offense hung in there!! If Ryan can keep playing like that the rest of the year we may have a chance to finish with a winning record. The defense is basically set for the rest of the year. No need to get upset about the way the play because that is the talent we are stuck with. It would be nice if the secondary coach could teach the guys to turn around and look for the ball in the air!!!

Same Ol Cons

November 22nd, 2009
6:06 pm

Congratualations AB. You purchased a cursed franchise. THEY ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE, AND WE KEPT THEM IN THE GAME. Thanks Jason Elam, you cost the AF another game. You better be cut tomorrow. PLAYOFFS, PLAYOFFS, as Coach Moran Sr. once said. You guy’s better pull your heads out of your A$$es. There are alot of people that would kill to make your money, AND YOU LET THEM OFF THE HOOK. I have been a Falcons Faithfull since 1985 , and I don’t think I have another year left in me. Good Luck , Loveable Losers. I’m Out

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 22nd, 2009
6:06 pm

I wish they could find John Abraham.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 22nd, 2009
6:07 pm

And the Great Dane.

gman

November 22nd, 2009
6:08 pm

So what was the deal in the first half? Matt had no confidence? Receivers not getting open? Bad play calling?

Secondly, if we don’t fix the CB position, we’re going to get burned all season. What is it with the Falcons and a weak secondary? That’s got to change.

Kane337

November 22nd, 2009
6:08 pm

Good article Mark. I’ll be a big Bronco’s and Lion’s fan on Turkey day.

"Chef" Tim Dix

November 22nd, 2009
6:08 pm

And a hair net for the breck girl, Chris Houston.

Kane337

November 22nd, 2009
6:09 pm

and a Raiders fan too

Kane337

November 22nd, 2009
6:11 pm

I don’t agree with going for 2 at the end. If we win that coin toss we win the game. The Giants never stopped the Falcons in the second half. Unfortunately the ridiculous NFL overtime system stinks and they will never change it.

Michael

November 22nd, 2009
6:11 pm

I hate how OT works. This team is still disciplined and plays hard (unlike my dang Dawgs). Heartbreaker…but im so optimisitc about this teams future. Anyone who thinks otherwise are just bandwagoners with no soul

But, can Chris Houston and Brent Grimes PLEASE learn to turn around? Houston tried to undress that guy and got a pass interference, when all he had to do was turn and he would have had a pick!!

the secondary needs some serious work before we are going to be a playoff threat!! either coach em up, or go shopping.

ATL

November 22nd, 2009
6:11 pm

You guys kill me. Any reason to give Matt Ryan kudo’s. We lost the freakin game people. I could careless what he did the second half he did nothing the first half so there you have it another loss. We need a new kicker like tomorrow morning.

Dawgs2009

November 22nd, 2009
6:12 pm

Mark: This is a wonderful article full of hope for the future. However, our defense is terrible. It doesn’t matter how good the offense plays, they still have to trot out the defense. This problem needs to be addressed.

mj

November 22nd, 2009
6:12 pm

Shankapotamus Elam and our corner backs are terrible. I mean, if you lose scoring 31 in the NFL , you have problems. It doesn’t matter if we make the playoffs, you cannot win with just offense. We had better spend some money on the wing men for defense next year. We just plain sux on defense!!

Crisp Houston

November 22nd, 2009
6:13 pm

Why am I still on this team? Anybody?

reebok

November 22nd, 2009
6:13 pm

the falcons’ only real chance to win was to go for 2 after their final TD. i’m sure smith never considered it, and the inevitable OT loss followed. 7-9, the streak lives for at least 2 more years…

JSS

November 22nd, 2009
6:13 pm

Toast (n.)
A food item made of fire crisped bread and served mainly with breakfast dishes in North America…
also see
Defensive backs employed by the Atlanta Falcons football club of the NFL…

janet

November 22nd, 2009
6:13 pm

I’m tired of the opinions, from everybody – especially the online announcers which is why I mute my TV. They are better than most of what we’ve seen in recent years so let’s give them a boost for a change. Consider also they played a seasoned, successful team today and come out well – absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. They are still pulling together and building and that’s what counts. I am encourage and so should everybody else – quit your whining!

FalconFan

November 22nd, 2009
6:14 pm

Elam is killing us. We cannot win with him, period. Morten Anderson would be an upgrade…anybody got his phone number?

Kane337

November 22nd, 2009
6:15 pm

I don’t agree with going for 2 points at the end. The Giants never stopped the Falcons the entire second half. If we win that coin toss we win the game. Unfortunately the NFL will never change their ridiculous overtime system. It’s just plain awful.

gg

November 22nd, 2009
6:15 pm

there has to be a decent kicker out there somewhere….Elam…you’re not in denver anymore

Win,lose, or tie bravos til i die

November 22nd, 2009
6:16 pm

why do we EVEN HAVE JASON ELAM HE HAS COST US TWO GAMES THIS SEASON! AND ESPECIALLY THE ONE TODAY! if we are trying to get back to back winning seasons well one things for surre that 300 year old kicker with the handle bar mustache is sure trying to make it so we dont

Bobby Boo

November 22nd, 2009
6:17 pm

The NFL overtime rules are soooo lame!

nativefalcon

November 22nd, 2009
6:17 pm

The falcons need to win out except NO unless we get lucky to make the playoffs but we need to be the fans of the other teams that play these three. The Eagles, Giants and Packers alll need to lose, we need to win out. See below

Atlanta 5-5

TB @ ATL
PHI @ ATL
NO @ ATL
ATL @ NYJ
BUF @ ATL
ATL @ TB

Packers 6-4

GB @ DET
BAL @ GB
GB @ CHI
GB @ PIT
SEA @ GB
GB @ ARI

Giants 6-4

NYG @ DEN
DAL @ NYG
PHI @ NYG
NYG @ WAS
CAR @ NYG
NYG @ MIN

Eagles 5-4

PHI @ CHI
WAS @ PHI
PHI @ ATL
PHI @ NYG
SF @ PHI
DEN @ PHI
PHI @ DAL

MARIELOVESSPX

November 22nd, 2009
6:17 pm

I hate NFL OT.
I’d rather have a tie! GO FALCONS!!!

nativefalcon

November 22nd, 2009
6:18 pm

Also we need a kicker bad, would elam just go on IR and get Morton Andersen back in, Gawd Elam is stinking up the place. :(

Billy

November 22nd, 2009
6:19 pm

The Falcons have NO chance of making the playoffs if they keep Jason Elam around. We would not have had an overtime today if he would have made his field goal and it would have completely changed the game last week too. He is terrible and we cannot depend on him in any situation…get rid of him please!!

preston

November 22nd, 2009
6:19 pm

we are all disappointed by this loss, and the seemingly inevitability of finding ourselves without the glorious back to back winning seasons. Ryan really got it going in the 4th quarter, and hopefully he will carry this performance over into next week. Jason Elam, for whatever reasons is still having issues with his rhythm, and he is leaving precious points on the field….the last few weeks could have turned out a lot differently had we cashed in on the field goals that he missed. The defense, as unreliable as they were in the overtime, actually came up big with the stops in the 4th quarter to give the offense a chance to tie the game. I am more frustated with the rules of the NFL more than anything………basketball puts 5 extra minutes on the clock for OT…..baseball allows both teams half of their inning to score…..but the NFL says first one to score wins the game???? Hec’ even college football which has it all wrong with the BCS, gets it right when it comes to overtime. Maybe the fans around the league should finally start a petition to correct this???? My name will be the first on the list.

Dump The Chump

November 22nd, 2009
6:19 pm

Mark I didn’t go anywhere. I have been here all year. This is not pee wee folks. Knock it off alright!!!!!!!!!!!!. Now that I have been here for a while Joe Cox was right. I need to ignore you pessimists.

“We knew we had to go out and score. And we were on the field so long the defense got tired.” Roddy is still hanging out at the clubs did he mean to say short time?

See you next week. Michael better catch the damn ball next week. I am tired of this idiot kicker. I talked to Peyton and he said we should show Elam the door.

:) :) :)

:) :)

—-

Joe Flacco is not playing well either so get off my back.

NCFalconFan

November 22nd, 2009
6:20 pm

Seriously Mark, if you can pick anyone in the NFL to bring in for the secondary who would you pick? If I see Grimes and Houston next season I’m going to be sick. I don’t want to hear building through the draft crap anymore.

Reality Check

November 22nd, 2009
6:21 pm

You can’t leave points on the field and this team did with missed field goals and dropped td passes.

prowlers1

November 22nd, 2009
6:21 pm

Do you think we can try and work on our secondary a little. Put Jenkins at safety. Cause if he can’t catch ones right to him he’s big and fast enough to compete with the big wide receivers and ends to knock it down. Wheres Morton Anderson when you need a field goal. Save Elam for the long ones. At least your not expected to make those…..

Kane337

November 22nd, 2009
6:22 pm

I absolutely hate the NFL overtime rules. Worst thing in sports other than the BCS.

Jimmah Carter

November 22nd, 2009
6:22 pm

It’s George Bush’s fault!

bird

November 22nd, 2009
6:23 pm

got to take a look at whats ahead this week

ttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aI6EAsKvgg

hawesg

November 22nd, 2009
6:24 pm

Anyone else think they should’ve gone for two at the end? Given that the defense couldn’t stop the San Francisco Giants, let alone the NY version? Basically they put the game in the hands of the coin toss.

bird

November 22nd, 2009
6:24 pm

mj

November 22nd, 2009
6:24 pm

SHANK A POT A MUS ELAM! Anything else needs to be said? Enough is enough. If he gives one more stare for a turd job, please let him go!! He sux’s. And Houston and Grimes, get a day job because you are not cornerbacks in the NFL.

TROTTINGHOME

November 22nd, 2009
6:24 pm

This article didn’t make me feel better
“waaaa waaaa”

woodie

November 22nd, 2009
6:26 pm

Did Abraham play today ?

dl (florida falcon)

November 22nd, 2009
6:26 pm

Damn that Elam! The second i saw him flinch, I knew we were doomed! I put in a DVD of Napolean Dynamite (at least I knew I wouldn’t be pissed offf, for the rest of the day). I guess, there is no point in crying about the schedule either, I hope we get the back to back monkey off our backs! I agree with the previous poster, stating that he may no have any seasons left in him. Seriously, ya’ll, it’s that hard following this team. I mean the F’ing saints might win the superbowl before us! DAMMIT!

Reid in EAV

November 22nd, 2009
6:27 pm

Er, can anyone tell me how the Birds managed to make so many enemies in the league office? We’ve played so many teams coming off bye weeks that I’ve lost track.

preston

November 22nd, 2009
6:28 pm

lol mj…”Shankapotamus Elam”!!!

JSS

November 22nd, 2009
6:28 pm

Reality Check…
“Leaving points on the field” is a Atlanta tradition like corrupt cops and state officials, leaky sewers, fleeing suburbanites, and people who use code words to paint stereotypes of minorities… Oh, 18 minutes of good QB’ing does not mark a reemergence…