The Atlanta Falcons escaped yet another close call this Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Matt Ryan had to orchestrate a third straight come-from-behind victory against the Carson Palmer led Raiders. But it could have been a blow-out by the Raiders as they beat Atlanta in every major statistical category except turnovers (3 a piece) and penalties (Oakland: 12-110; Atlanta 2-25).
Atlanta and Matt Ryan again started off poorly for the third week in a row. Ryan threw three first-half interceptions that led to 10 points for the Raiders. The offense for the Falcons looked anemic for most of the game. The ground game never got going and Matt Ryan and his receivers never could get together consistently.
On a brighter note, the defense looked solid for most of the game. They were able to pressure Carson Palmer for much of the day. John Abraham had his best game so far this year by sacking Palmer three times and forcing a fumble that led to a Falcon field goal. In all, the defense forced three turnovers in the game and Asante Samuel came up big late in the fourth with a pick six that seemed to all but seal the victory for the Falcons.
The Raiders, however, did not back down. Trailing 20-13 with just over 2 minutes left in the game, Carson Palmer led his Raiders on an 8 play, 80-yard drive to tie the game at 20-20. This drive was also helped by poor coverage in the secondary and a conversion on 3rd and long.
But ultimately, the game came down to Matty Ice for the third time this year. After a touchback, the Falcons started their last drive on the 20 yard line with 40 seconds left on the clock and 2 timeouts. After completing a few short passes, Ryan connected with "The Ageless Wonder", Tony Gonzalez for 13 yards.
After using their final timeout, the Falcons lined up for a potential game-winning 55-yard field goal. After an inevitable timeout by the Raiders just prior to the attempt, which Matt Bryant actually missed, the Falcons lined up for the potential game-winning kick. Matt Bryant proved to be yet again as clutch as Matt Ryan as he boomed the 55-yard field goal with plenty of room to spare for the win.
Even though the Falcons walked away with the victory, the stats show a different story. As I stated before, the Raiders were better in just about every major offensive category. They had more first downs than the Falcons (22-16), more passing yards (325-241), more rushing yards (149-45) and more total yards(474-286). They even had a better time of possession by almost 13 minutes. What would eventually prove costly for the Raiders would be crucial turnovers and an immense amount of penalties that stopped drives. Without these, I believe the Raiders would have pulled out a big upset and beat the Falcons at the Dome. Something that has proved very difficult to do in the past five years.
Game notes: Matt Ryan has thrown an interception in four straight games with an interception and six overall. After having a Rating over 100 in his first four games, he has posted consecutive ratings of 89 and 59.4. What makes this even worse is the Redskins and Raiders are two of the worst passing defenses in the league.