Bryant beats 49ers with another game winner

AP Photo/John Amis

Falcons celebrate another close win (AP)

The Falcons won another nail biter with a comeback win versus the San Francisco 49ers and a 16-14 victory. The Falcons were down the entire game, not taking the lead until 2 seconds left with a Matt Bryant game-winning field goal for the second straight week.

Matt Ryan got off to a good start, and finished the game completing 26 of 43 passes for 273 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. Michael Turner led the ground attack with 16 carries for 50 yards (3.1 avg) and Jason Snelling added 7 carries for 31 yards (4.4 avg). Roddy White was quiet for the majority of the game, but came up big down the stretch finishing with a team-leading 7 catches for 104 yards. Tony Gonzalez also added 7 receptions for 41 yards. Brian Finneran had 4 catches for 36 yards and Harry Douglas added 3 for 59 yards, including a score. On the game-winning drive, White had 4 catches for 60 yards, and also caused a fumble on a Nate Clements interception that preserved the Falcons chances to win.  The Falcons got the ball with 3:40 remaining in the fourth quarter at their own 8-yard line. They were able to push the ball to midfield, until Clements stepped in front of Tony Gonzalez for an interception with 90 seconds remaining in the game. White chased Clements down and forced a fumble, reminiscent of his play last season vs. the 49ers on Dre’ Bly. Harvey Dahl recovered. The Falcons recovered at their own 7, and Ryan and the Falcons responded for the second chance by moving the ball down the field in large part thanks to White, setting up the go-ahead and game-winning 43-yard field from Bryant.

Defensively, the Falcons had a strong performance, only allowing the 49ers offense to score on their opening drive. They allowed only 262 total yards, but looked gassed on the 49ers final offensive drive in the fourth quarter. The 49ers were able to convert three straight third downs on a time-consuming 13-play drive that the 49ers had marched 58 yards downfield. Until William Moore provided a hit on Alex Smith on 3rd & 4 which forced the 49ers to punt with less than 4 minutes remaining, ultimately leading to the Falcons win. Stephen Nicholas led the team with 13 tackles, getting the start for an injured Sean Weatherspoon. Jamaal Anderson (2 tackles), Kroy Biermann (2 tackles), Thomas DeCoud (5 tackles), Brent Grimes (2 tackles), Curtis Lofton (9 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception), Moore (4 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble), Mike Peterson (3 tackles), and Dunta Robinson (4 tackles) all had noteworthy games.

Along with the game-winner from 43 yards, Bryant hit on both of his other field goal tries of 37 and 31 yards. Michael Koenen punted 4 times for an average of 33 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. But his second punt was blocked at the Falcons on the team’s own 12-yard line, and was recovered in the endzone for a touchdown, the 49ers second and final score of the game 10 minutes into the first quarter. Eric Weems returned 3 kickoffs for an average of 25.7 yards and 2 punts for an average of 16 yards.

Next week the Falcons face the Cleveland Browns (1-3) on the road. The Falcons have dropped their last two versus the Browns, their most recent loss coming in 2006 by a score of 17-13. The Falcons are 1-4 all-time when facing the Browns in Cleveland, with their lone win coming in 1971. Their last visit there came in 1990. The Falcons-Browns matchup is a rare one, having only occurred three times in the past twenty seasons.  All-time the Browns are 10-2 against the Falcons.

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Aaron Freeman
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