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Another comeback keeps Falcons unbeaten

The SportsXchange

ATLANTA -- Matt Bryant's 55-yard field goal with one second to play capped another dramatic comeback in the Georgia Dome and kept the Falcons unbeaten heading into their bye week with a 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who was picked off three times in the first half, authored another game-winning drive, just two weeks after doing the same thing to the Carolina Panthers. Bryant also made the winning kick as time expired in the Falcons' 30-28 win over the Panthers.

After Oakland tied the score on a Darren McFadden touchdown, the Falcons (6-0) took over on their 20 with 40 seconds to play. Ryan hit four of five throws on the drive and connected with Tony Gonzalez at the Oakland 30 to setup Bryant's winning field goal.

"You don't want those to be in those situations, but that's what this league is like," said Ryan about the last-minute drive. "We've been in those situations before, and I think everyone is calm and settled down."

Asante Samuel returned an interception 79 yards with 2:40 to play, helping the Atlanta take its first lead since early in the second quarter.

Samuel jumped in front of Carson Palmer's pass to Denarius Moore and raced down the left sideline, shaking off Palmer's attempted tackle on his way to the go-ahead touchdown. It was Samuel's sixth interception return for a touchdown of his career.

"I didn't think [Samuel] was going to make the play he did, but I can't put us in that position," a dejected Palmer said after the game. "I didn't think he was going to make the play he did, but I can't put us in that position."

Palmer and the Raiders (1-4) responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive, capped by McFadden's 2-yard touchdown run. Palmer connected on five of six throws on the drive and finished 23 of 33 for 352 yards with a touchdown and the costly interception.

The Falcons are the only undefeated team in the NFC and own a four-game lead in the NFC South heading into their bye week.

"I don't think we've played our best games the past two weeks," said Ryan. "But in the NFL regular season, it's all about finding ways to get wins and that's what we've done."

Ryan had thrown three interceptions total in five games this season. On Sunday, he had three in the first half against a Raider defense that hadn't picked off a pass in its first four games. Ryan had one other three-interception game in a Nov. 2, 2009 loss at New Orleans. The Saints' secondary in that game was coached by current Oakland coach Dennis Allen.

Ryan finished 24 of 37 for 249 yards with a touchdown and the three picks.

Off to the franchise's best start and possibly anticipating the bye week ahead, the Falcons got off to a sluggish start. Ryan was intercepted twice and Bryant missed a 43-yard field goal on their first three possessions.

The Raiders capitalized on Ryan's second pick, marching 65 yards from their own 1 yard line to setup a 52-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal.

The Falcons answered with 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive capped by 4-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Roddy White to go up 7-3.

The Raiders, coming off their bye, had the ball for five more minutes than the Falcons in the first half. Offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp, who held the same position in Atlanta from 2004-2006, mixed in a steady dose of McFadden and Mike Goodson on the ground and some well-time screens and dump-off passes.

Goodson's 37-yard catch and run set up one of two Janikowski field goals in the first half, and wide out Denarius Moore brushed off a lackluster tackle attempt by Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson and scored from 25 yards out to give the Raiders a 13-7 lead at halftime.

In addition to the interceptions, the Raiders pressured Ryan throughout and never let the Falcons' ground game to get going. Atlanta leading rusher Michael Turner had 33 yards on 11 eight carries. The Raiders had one sack and hit Ryan nine times.

But the end result was all too familiar for Raider fans.

"It's a tough pill for us to swallow," said Allen. "The players played extremely hard. They have heart."

With their offense stumbling, the Falcons' defense came through in the third quarter. John Abraham blew by Raiders left tackle Jared Veldheer and stripped an unsuspecting Palmer of the ball. The fumble was picked up by Ray Edwards, who returned it to the Oakland 2.

But the Falcons couldn't punch it in. Ryan threw an incompletion, and Turner and Jason Snelling each were stopped short of the goal line, forcing a Bryant field goal to tie the game, 13-13, with 2:31 left in third quarter.

"Our goal all week was to get through this game and get to our bye week 6-0," said Smith. "That was the mission. Obviously, we didn't want to make it as hard as we did. We made a lot of mistakes in the ball game on offense, defense and special teams, and coaching. We were able to overcome all of that."

NOTES: Mike Smith improved to 29-6 at home during the regular season. ... Smith (49-21) tied with Dan Reeves (49-59-1) for the most wins in Atlanta franchise history. ... Falcons QB Matt Ryan has authored 19 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2008, the most among active NFL quarterbacks. ... Falcons WR Harry Douglas made a highlight-reel grab in the third quarter, corralling a pass that deflected off the helmet of Raiders defensive back Joselio Hanson while lying on his back. ... 69,383 tickets were distributed for the game. ... The Raiders lost their 10th consecutive game after a bye week and have been outscored 95-39 in three road games this season. ... They return home to face Jacksonville next Sunday.
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