Sunday, November 29, 2009

Falcons rally to beat Bucs in closing seconds

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Blame it on the throwback uniforms.

Longtime Falcons  fans knew nothing really good could come from the team wearing those 1966 originals.
Absolutely nothing.
Some will contend the Falcons shouldn't pay tribute to a luckless history they are trying to run away from. How else do you explain the team needing a do-or-die touchdown pass with 23 seconds left to beat the lowly Tampa Bay Buccaneers, previously 1-9, at the Georgia Dome on Sunday?
Backup quarterback Chris Redman, MIA much of the last two years, drilled a 5-yard touchdown pass to a slanting Roddy White  to pullout the hard-fought 20-17  victory that may prove extremely costly in the injury department. Gotta be the shirts.
Hoping for a stretch run to the playoffs, the Falcons could be without quarterback Matt Ryan (toe), running back Michael Turner (re-injured sprained right ankle), left tackle Sam Baker (elbow) and right guard Harvey Dahl (Achilles tendon, ankle) after a very costly 60 minutes.
Dahl was able to return to action, but the extent and severity of the other injuries are being evaluated.
The medical staff spent most of the first quarter trying to cram some padding in Ryan's right shoe that would allow him to continue to play. As many as eight people looked on as the staff feverishly worked on the foot. But padded and wrapped with black tape, Ryan tried to drop back twice, couldn't push off his right foot and was done for the day.
Despite the attrition, the Falcons (6-5) secured a necessary victory to keep pace in the NFC playoff race. Dallas (8-3), Philadelphia (7-4) and Green Bay (7-4) all won this week. New Orleans (10-0) plays Monday night against New England.
"We couldn't afford to lose this one,"  White said.
The Falcons improved to 12-1 in the Dome under second-year coach Mike Smith, including a 5-0 mark this season.
"We obviously didn't play our best, but the object each and every week is to win the football game and that's what we did today," Smith said. "We tried numerous ways not to win the game, but we were able to overcome that."
The Falcons definitely won't be mailing the film of this one back to Canton, Ohio, for display in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Twelve-point favorites, they allowed the Buccaneers to stay around in the game, trailing throughout most of the second half. They gave up six sacks, had a punt blocked that set up Tampa Bay's go-ahead touchdown and Jason Elam missed another field goal.
"It's one of the ugliest games that I've ever been apart of and won," center Todd McClure said. "But it is a win."
Things started off well as the Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Elam banged home a 45-yard field goal and Jerious Norwood scored from 22 yards out on a shovel pass from Redman with 6:31 left in the half.
But the Buccaneers tied it before intermission. Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback, Josh Freeman, found Antonio Bryant for a 42-yard touchdown on poor coverage by backup cornerback Tye Hill. Tampa Bay's Conner Barth added a 39-yard field goal 24 seconds left in the half to make it 10-10.
The Buccaneers seized control early in the third quarter. Corey Lynch blocked a Michael Koenen punt which  led to a Freeman-to-Cadillac Williams touchdown pass for a 17-10 lead just 3:18 into the period.
Elam made a 37-yard on the Falcons next possession to make it 17-13.
In the fourth quarter, Tampa Bay faked a punt that was unsuccessful and gave the Falcons good field position. But both Elam and then Barth each missed field goals -- Elam a 43-yarder and Barth a 51-yarder -- which set the stage for the game-winning possession.
Redman, who completed 23 of 41 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns, began the drive on the Falcons' 41-yard line with 2:30 remaining. Leaning heavily on tight end Tony Gonzalez and getting some help from a defensive holding penalty on Derrick Roberson in the end zone, Redman was finally faced with a fourth-and-goal situation on the 5-yard line. The game balancing on one throw, he found White open in the end zone.
"We just had double slants on," Redman said. "It looked like they were going to double Tony and you have Roddy Whiteout there in one-on-one. He's a Pro Bowl receiver. I liked my chances."
Redman had taken over for Ryan after the first series. The last time he quarterbacked the Falcons to a win was Dec. 30, 2007 (44-41 over Seattle).
"I'm always just ready to go at any time," Redman said. "I'm always preparing for that. So when they tell me to go in, I'm not nervous. That's what I'm here for and you just have to stay ready."


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