Bryant’s leg lifts Falcons over Packers

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Bryant kicks the game winner

The Falcons won another tight one with a last minute game-winning field goal by Matt Bryant to squeak past the Green Bay Packers 20-17. The Falcons record moves to 9-2 atop the NFC and remain unbeaten at home in their last fifteen outings under Matt Ryan.

Matt Ryan led the team, completing 24 of 28 passes for 198 yards and 1 touchdown. Ryan was nearly perfect in the second half, completing 14 straight passes until his last throw was incomplete. Michael Turner led the team on the ground with 110 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown. Tony Gonzalez led receivers with 6 grabs for 51 yards and a touchdown. Roddy White had 5 catches for 49 yards. Jason Snelling (4 catches and 32 yards) and Michael Jenkins (3 catches for 24 yards) also contributed.

The Falcons started off strong on the opening possession of the game, but a 15-yard penalty on Harvey Dahl killed their momentum. And they were forced to settle for a field goal from Bryant. The Packers were able to tie up the game with a late first quarter drive, but a goalline stand by the Falcons at their own 4-yard line forced them to settle for three. The Packers were on the verge of going up on their next drive, but Aaron Rodgers fumbled the ball into the endzone leading to a touchback. The Falcons capitalized with a 14-play drive that lasted over 7 minutes, ending with Ryan’s touchdown pass to Gonzalez with 12 seconds to go in the half. In the second half, the Packers were able to make some big plays in the air and drove down to tie the game 10-10. Another long drive by the Falcons closed out the third quarter and ended with Turner’s 1-yard touchdown run at the start of the fourth. The Packers were able to bounce back two series later with Rodgers hitting Jordy Nelson in the back of the endzone on a 10-yard score to match the Falcons. It left with just a minute left in the game. The Falcons final drive was kicked off by a 40-yard return by Eric Weems, with a 15-yard face mask penalty tacked on for good measure. Four Ryan completions later the Falcons were in field goal range. Bryant hit a 47-yarder with 13 seconds left to go. A big pass play failed for the Packers, and the Falcons earned their ninth victory.

Defensively, the Falcons were able to make plays when they needed to. Limiting the Packers to only 3 points on two redzone possessions in the first half were pivotal to their success. Brian Williams and Thomas DeCoud tied for the team lead of 7 tackles. John Abraham (4 tackles, 1 sack), Jonathan Babineaux (2 tackles), Kroy Biermann (2 tackles), Brent Grimes (6 tackles), Curtis Lofton (5 tackles), William Moore (6 tackles), Dunta Robinson (3 tackles), and Sean Weatherspoon (3 tackles) all had noteworthy performances.

Bryant hit on his two field goal attempts of 38 and 47 yards, and he remains perfect on field goals at home this year. Michael Koenen punted 4 times for an average of 40.3 yards, with 2 placed inside the 20-yard line. Eric Weems didn’t return a punt, but had 3 kickoff returns for an average of 31 yards.

Next week the Falcons travel to Tampa to take on the Buccaneers. The Falcons have won 4 straight against the Bucs, including a road victory to close out the 2009 season by a score of 20-10. But prior to that, the Falcons lost 3 straight overall and 3 of 4 on the road. The Bucs have won their last two at home. The Falcons already won one matchup with the Bucs this year, by a score of 27-21.

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