A great escape shows us how special these Falcons can be

Ball in the air, game on the line: Who grabs it? Guess. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Ball in the air, game on the line. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

For three games they’d run nice and easy, never once trailing, facing only one gotta-have-this drive. (That came against Denver, and they got it.) But the Falcons play in the NFL, where nothing stays nice and easy, and Sunday they happened on an opponent who wouldn’t yield and a predicament that would have taxed the faith of a saint.

So it was that Matthew Thomas Ryan, named after two saints, took a snap at his 1 and backtracked into the end zone with 59 seconds remaining and his team, without a timeout to its name, down a point. Already Ryan had been sacked seven times, and as a nod to Carolina’s pressure the Falcons did something odd. At a moment of near-desperation, a time when you’d expect every receiver on the roster to be zigging this way or that, they dispatched only two men to run routes.

Roddy White down the left side, Julio Jones on the right. Everybody else stayed to block, and even as he retreated Ryan did a strange thing: He faked a handoff to Jacquizz Rodgers, and here you almost laughed. What offense in its right mind bothers with faking a run at its 1 with no timeouts left?

This carefully considered offense did. “It was actually more a protection thing,” Ryan would say of the play-action ploy, and it worked. Given a clean pocket for the first time in ages, he stepped forward and let fly. The ball traveled 65 yards and came down in the professional hands of Roddy White, who’d beaten Josh Norman and outleaped (for the second time this day) safety Haruki Nakamura. Just like that, the undefeated Falcons were positioned to win on a day they coulda/shoulda lost.

Said Todd McClure, the center: “It’s unbelievable. Matt said, ‘I went back and threw it as far as I could, and Roddy made a play.’ ”

Said Ryan: “It was a good throw and a great catch.”

Said White: “I try to track [the ball] at its highest point and jump just before [the defender] does. It’s kind of easy to do.”

Well, no. It’s not easy to do. But the beauty of these Falcons is that they have enough talent to carry them above and beyond. It’s why they’re 4-0 and have all but lapped the field in the NFC South. It’s why they’re capable of winning much more than the NFC South.

Ryan again: “I threw it high and far. We practice that. Roddy went up and got it.”

Then this: “In that situation, you have to make a play that changes the outcome of the game.”

The famous Cam Newton nearly made such a play inside the final two minutes, but he fumbled while lunging for what would have been the clinching first down. (John Abraham, man in the news, knocked it loose.) Had Newton held the ball, the Falcons wouldn’t have touched it again. As it was, the ball was moved backward and Carolina coach Ron Rivera flinched at fourth-and-1, and for his timidity he wound up losing.

If you have a choice, you don’t give a great quarterback a chance to beat you. And that’s what Ryan is becoming – a great quarterback. He has won unwinnable games before (meaning Chicago as a rookie), but in the fifth year of his NFL life he has become the guy who, as the glib coach Jimmy Johnson used to say, “can sink the 8-ball on the break.” How else to describe a quarterback who took his trailing team 77 yards in 49 seconds without needing to call time?

That the Falcons won on a day when they weren’t the best only tells us they’re not just gifted but fierce. They needed that test, and they aced it. Said Mike Smith, their coach: “It was just a matter of time before we would have to play from behind.”

Said McClure: “We’ve got unbelievable skill guys, and we know that if there’s a little bit of time we can win.”

Apart from the ending, this wasn’t a great day for the Falcons. Because of the ending, it became a great day. It showed them that they can do whatever it takes to win. It showed them that their quarterback can absorb a dozen big hits and rise above the bruising. It showed them that their ceiling is higher than the roof of the venue for this stunning escape.

By Mark Bradley

258 comments Add your comment

GT Trumpet

September 30th, 2012
6:50 pm

I am a believer in Matt Ryan!

Goldenrod

September 30th, 2012
6:57 pm

I am STILL a believer in Georgia Tech football! If we can beat the leghumpers in Athens all is forgiven with Coach Johnson and Coach Groh.

I think yesterday was just a speed bump, we underestimated the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State University.

THWG, Falcons & Doggies are overrated!

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
6:58 pm

Matty and Smitt made a believer out of me too.

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
6:58 pm

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
6:59 pm

Golden, you prove Einstein’s theory of insanity.

JSS

September 30th, 2012
6:59 pm

Said the same thing after the Bears in 2008…
Said the same thing after the Jets in 2009…
Said the same thing after the 49ers, Packers, and Ravens in 2010…
and Mark Bradley declares it again after today…

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:01 pm

Golden, what was the score at Grant Field at Bobby Dodd Stadium at Coke concessions Saturday?

GT Trumpet

September 30th, 2012
7:05 pm

I’m with Todd on this one. I don’t think anyone can see what happened on The Flats yesterday and be ok with that team. Mark Richt has put together a decent team this year as far as I can tell, and good on him. CPJ…not so much…

ConyersDawg

September 30th, 2012
7:05 pm

Hey Goldenrod – the Falcons and Dawgs are a combined 9 and ZERO whereas the maggots of North Avenue are 2 and 3. That’s right, 3 losses with loss #4 coming up this Saturday in Death Valley.

I know you maggots are always hating on Big Brother UGA for Running This State but now you’re trying to hate on the Falcons too after a HUGE comeback victory? Stay off of these blogs and get back to playing World of Warcraft in your mom’s basement!

DAWGS RUN THIS STATE & Falcons RISE UP!

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:06 pm

As the famous soothsage, seer, writer, blogger and raconteur Mark Bradley said yesterday “What’s left to be said?”

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:10 pm

Golden, got news you will believe: The earth is flat, Dewey defeated Truman, Kennedy was faithful, Carter was not, and Johnson told the truth about Vietnam, and Nixon lied about Watergate.

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:12 pm

That picture is The New Picture of the Falcons Franchise.

Day One Fan

September 30th, 2012
7:13 pm

JSS, are you a maroon…had to check down… Are you so profoundly insane that you cannot give props to Matt Ryan? After the adversity he faced, to have the kind of stats he had, to not give props is the definiyion of either troll or insanity.

Day One Fan

September 30th, 2012
7:15 pm

Dang fat finguring…Definition.

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:16 pm

What would the late, great Munson have said: “We have no chance!!! We have no timeouts!!! We have 100,000 miles to go to even attempt a moonshot field goal!!! Matt Ryan has been beat up all day!!! Can he even lift the ball???!!! Our receivers are dog-tired and their defensive backs haven’t broken a sweat!!!! NO WAY!!! JUST NO WAY!!!”

Day One Fan

September 30th, 2012
7:17 pm

Once again…fingering…lol

RamblinWreck82

September 30th, 2012
7:17 pm

On behalf of GT alums, just shut your piehole Goldenrod! That game yesterday was a flat out embarrassment and the first time I have seen our players quit since the 51-7 game.

At least we can take pride in one Atlanta football team, our Dirty Birds are lookin’ good.

p.s. – Do you realize what Aaron Murray and Bobo are going to do to Al Groh’s defense?

Chiba, Exchange Student

September 30th, 2012
7:17 pm

I am Chiba and I love America! Today, I see Chipper Jone play for my first time and then I see Matt Ryan and the Falcon win the game. I think they both are very good and I enjoy reading Mark Bradley column. I would like to say I think Chipper Jone is the best baseball player in Atlanta and not very smart but can hit curve ball. Matt Ryan appear to have good arm 65 yards.

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Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:18 pm

“The officials are making Matt Ryan stand underneath the goal post so he can’t see down field!!! They are only letting us have 9 men on the field!!! And making Smitty tell the Carolina defense the play he is calling!!!”

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:20 pm

Ramblinwreck, your comments are appreciated, but I wouldnt go overboard about Bobo.

whoa now

September 30th, 2012
7:20 pm

Ryan took a beating and won,the offensive line got beat most of the day and won, the defense got beat all day and won..the question remains why in hell can we NOT play the whole game like we did the last 50 or so seconds??????
We got that puny 10 point lead and tried not to lose..not play agressive and win!!
Ron Riveria..this game lies sorely at your feet!! Any dam team that is 1-2 and has less than 1 yard to go for the 1st down to “ice” the game & has a QB the size of a mack truck..needs to have his “kahoonas” iced for the rest of the year!!!!! Go Falcons!!

JSS

September 30th, 2012
7:22 pm

Ha ha, you want props, he got those from you in the aforementioned times… Have a ball and stop typing mad, it is not in your skill set!

Eric

September 30th, 2012
7:22 pm

I believe the debate over Matt Ryan’s arm strength has officially ended.

Todd Grantham

September 30th, 2012
7:23 pm

Mike Bobo’s theory of play calling- Find out what works then immediately move on to something else.

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:28 pm

Whos whistling now JSS?! Lol! Who gets the last whistle! The birds do! Said Turner would have a big day, said this would be like UGA/UT…all true. Come listen to my tune while I whistle the Rise Up theme! Bwhahahahwhahwhahwh!

Stinger 2

September 30th, 2012
7:29 pm

Goldenrod: Your post is almost embarassing as the loss yesterday to us other GT fans. Please think before you say anything like that again.

JSS

September 30th, 2012
7:30 pm

“JSS, are you a maroon…”

The Pottsville Maroon(s) got something you guys don’t an NFL championship… oops oh wait, they are like you guys claiming greatness too!

Mark Bradley

September 30th, 2012
7:30 pm

Thanks for everything, folks. Headed home.

Kramer

September 30th, 2012
7:35 pm

Tha Packers are proving they can lose to a bad team. The Aints? Really? Falcons are the best in the NFC.

JSS

September 30th, 2012
7:35 pm

Game was nothing like that clown show in Athens yesterday… That was the NFL, one team didn’t execute with every advantage and like most professional games when you don’t you lose…

And “whistling” (which you obviously don’t get) means you’re just observing, no more…

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:37 pm

BTW what should Bradley say?
1. That Ryan got drilled behind the line today?
2. That Cam played well today?
3. That our defense did not play well?
4. That we had to many drops?
5. That every division game is a test for every team in every division
WAIT!
He said all that and more…as well as this was a game we should not have won…what you want? More? Less? For him to be employed by the AJC and bash the team ( he laid the facts for which they were today!) And the truth is that we were in for a dog fight from the jump…..much like I knew we would be! Did you forget that last year we had to come back against this team…(you remember secret little angry mean falcon fan)….get a grip! Respect what we did today on a day when we did not play well! Its what good teams do! And you should have enough respect to do that!

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:40 pm

You observed that win today! Bahahahahahahah! You so wanted them to lose! Admit it! And dont sit here and say you could care less because you watched the whole game! Reason you have such a hard time on here is because you never admit you are wrong and you tell so many untruths! Good teams do what the Birds did today….respect that! Be a fan of the game and respect that!

GTJeff

September 30th, 2012
7:41 pm

Thank God for the Falcons. Saved half of my weekend.

UGHEY you are & always will Honey Boo Boo Trailer Trash regardless of the record of your team.

Big Dog 89

September 30th, 2012
7:43 pm

The Falcons and the Dawgs are undefeated….meanwhile, GT starts the finger pointing.

Is a high school offense good enough for the NCAA?

RambleOn84

September 30th, 2012
7:43 pm

Psst…Goldenrod is a faker…is anyone really dumb enough to think that this is actually a Tech fan?

It’s a “clever” Georgie fan setting up a nice strawman to which he can then easily defeat under another name.

Some people are really, REALLY bored.

Big Dog 89

September 30th, 2012
7:43 pm

The Falcons Rule.
Who would have guess the Saints would be winless at this point?

RambleOn84

September 30th, 2012
7:44 pm

As for the point of THIS article, the Falcons look great. BIG win today.

And the Aints are 0-4.

Gotta love it!

JSS

September 30th, 2012
7:45 pm

“We?” You played? Does Roger Goodell know you’re blogging during the game?

FalconUGAFan

September 30th, 2012
7:46 pm

@answer this…Don’t sweat it..ain’t worth it. Let em speak their nonsensical hoohaw….The Falcons will be what they are regardless.

Dirty Dawg

September 30th, 2012
7:46 pm

Had to stop listening to the TV announcers today…it was obvious to me, at least before I stopped, that they – particularly Lynch – were favoring Carolina. On the keeper that Newton ran for some 30 or 40 yards on their first TD drive, our DB was held in the open field – so obvious that even the replacement officials would have called it (of course the ‘real’ ones didn’t), but the announcers called it a great block – twice. And on a personal foul call for helmet to helmet against them Lynch called it a good football play (what the hell he thinks happens when one helmet comes into contact with another, I don’t know).

Fortunately they had to ‘eat it’ at the end of the game.

Ricnic31

September 30th, 2012
7:47 pm

You walk into the BEST team in the leagues house. You better bring your “A” game. I give Cam and the Noots a “B-”.

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:48 pm

Respect the game! The Falcons had to play tough today to get this win! So if you are such the fan of the game of football you claim to be respect what they did! Or continue to show what you are truly about…simple!

RambleOn84

September 30th, 2012
7:49 pm

Noticed that too, Dirty Dawg.

That holding non-call was blatant.

Oh well, it all worked out for the Good Guys in the end.

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:50 pm

Thats your best response!? Like I thought you fake angus sack of dog poo! You are the punk we all know you are. You are done….chump loser.

sidslid

September 30th, 2012
7:51 pm

Roddy as behind me at Starbucka yesterday. I’m buying if I see him again

Steve

September 30th, 2012
7:51 pm

Wow that was a good one GTJeff! Moron.

Answer this

September 30th, 2012
7:52 pm

Dirty Dawg I thought it was just me who recognized that!

Day One Fan

September 30th, 2012
7:56 pm

One last post…JSS you are intillectually inferior. KMA

td

September 30th, 2012
7:56 pm

Falcons magic number to clinch the division is 10.