Falcons take NFC driver’s seat after second game-winning goal-line stand

Atlanta Falcons

Coming into Week 3, the Atlanta Falcons were one of the remaining undefeated teams in the NFL, as were the Detroit Lions. The Falcons had just come off a solid outing against the Green Bay Packers, while the Lions soundly won against the New York Giants. With these two teams picking up steam, their Sunday matchup was set to be an exciting game.

Atlanta was first to strike with a 4-yard touchdown from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu. Lions CB Quandre Diggs tried to bring Sanu down at the 1-yard line but the receiver fought to get the ball into the end zone for six.

After the Falcons held the Lions to a field goal, they marched 63 yards down the field to set up Devonta Freeman with a 1-yard rushing touchdown to put Atlanta up 17-3.

The Falcons had held the Lions to just two field goals for the majority of the first half and were looking great offensively. Freeman looked explosive on the field collecting, 56 yards on the ground and a touchdown, along with three receptions for 32 yards. But with 1:41 left in the half, Ryan’s pass intended for Julio Jones was picked off by Glover Quinn and retuned 37 yards for a touchdown.

After Matt Bryant’s 48-yard field goal, the Lions went three-and-out, handing the ball back to the Falcons so Ryan could take a knee to end the first half.

During the third quarter, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford appeared to have found his groove and began connecting with his receivers. He found Golden Tate in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown pass to bring the Lions just three points shy of the Falcons.

The Falcons offense would continue to move the ball. The Falcons fed the ball to Freeman, who rushed three times for 35 yards to put the Birds at the Detroit 40-yard line. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Ryan threw to his sneaky weapon Taylor Gabriel in the backfield, and Gabriel took the ball 40 yards and dove into the end zone for a touchdown.

As the game clock wound down, the Falcons were forced to punt, giving the Lions the ball with 2:31 remaining. With a score of 30-26, the Lions had no option but to score a touchdown.

As the Lions threatened, Stafford launched the ball toward Marvin Jones near the end zone, and the pass was picked off by Robert Alford. The interception looked to be a game-saving play, but a defensive holding penalty was called on Desmond Trufant, and the Lions got another opportunity.

That penalty would not be the last to make Falcons fans a little uneasy as the game neared its end. An incomplete pass to Jones drew a pass interference call on Trufant. This series of penalties kept the window open for the Lions. With 12 seconds left in the game, Stafford threw the ball to Tate for a 1-yard touchdown, and the Falcons appeared to have lost their perfect record.

The Lions, however, would have to hold their celebrations. The replay showed that nickelback Brian Poole had touched Tate’s shoulder, and his knee had gone down just before the ball could cross into the end zone. The referees then determined that a 10-second runoff was necessary, as the play would have been a running-clock situation. The game was over, and the Falcons walked out of Ford Field undefeated after a thrilling ending.


Now that the Falcons have taken out the Lions, who were previously 2-0, they and the Kansas City Chiefs are the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. An obvious reason behind the Falcons continuous success is their intimidating offense. Freeman marched up and down the field all day against the Lions, totaling 106 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown. He now has 227 rushing yards on the season, and a whopping four touchdowns. After a quiet first two weeks, Gabriel racked up five receptions for 79 yards, scoring a touchdown on a 40-yard play. Julio Jones has yet to find the end zone, but his high volume and efficiency have still been present during each game. Jones now has 265 receiving yards this season. If he continues at this rate he will have no problem logging over 1,000 yards again. Ryan has tossed the ball for over 250 yards in each game this season and had not thrown a single interception until yesterday. On top of all this success, ageless wonder Bryant has made every field goal attempt so far, two of which were beyond 50 yards.


Even with a flawless 3-0 record, the Falcons did not blow their first and third opponents out of the water. During their Week 1 matchup against the Bears, the game remained close until the very end. Down 23-17 the Bears had the ball with less than a minute to play and were nearing the end zone. Josh Bellamy almost caught the game-winning touchdown but was unable to come down with the ball. Jordan Howard had a chance to win the game but dropped a pass in fear of getting crushed by Robert Alford. The Falcons got off the hook against the Lions by mere inches. Had Tate managed to progress the ball forward just a bit more before his knee hit the ground, the Falcons would have been down with just eight seconds left in the game. The Falcons soundly defeated the Packers but allowed them to score twice in the fourth quarter. Moving forward, the Falcons defense will look to play hard through four quarters.

Next week, the Falcons take on the 2-1 Buffalo Bills at home. With Bills star running back LeSean McCoy coming off two weeks with pedestrian rushing performances, the Bills will have to get something started early if they want a chance to beat the full-throttle Atlanta Falcons.

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