Normally in this weekly post, I note the players who played the very best for the Falcons on the day, and those who made the biggest difference in the win. Unfortunately, the Falcons as a team looked absolutely dreadful, and many of the players on this list who made great plays also gave up more than their fair share of bad plays. Instead, I’ll give you the top five plays (in descending order) for the Falcons on the day, the ones that made all the difference in the ballgame.
5. Jonathan Babineaux’s forced fumble & recovery by Robert McClain: After the first of many interceptions by Matt Ryan on the day, the Falcons looked to be in dire straights. They were going to give up points to the Raiders on their first possession of the game, a bad situation for any team. Darren McFadden had been running roughshod over the Falcons defense. But on this play, Jonathan Babineaux shot a gap, burst into the backfield, and knocked the ball out. The Falcons recovered, and prevented the Raiders from getting early points on that possession. That ended up being huge in the ball game.
4. Roddy White’s 4-yard touchdown catch: This was especially huge, because it was Atlanta’s only offensive touchdown of the day. It was the culmination of an 80-yard drive by the Falcons, and gave the Falcons a lead for a short time. It was a huge play, and a good throw and catch by Matt Ryan and Roddy White respectively.
3. John Abraham’s strip-sack & recovery by Ray Edwards: Oakland was once again in the drivers seat in the game, and if they were allowed to score they could have turned the game into a blowout, and completely upset the Falcons. Instead, All-Pro defensive end John Abraham forced the fumble which was recovered by Ray Edwards, and in the end allowed the Falcons to kick a field goal and put up more points on the board. Every point was valuable in this game, and since it also denied Oakland points, it was doubly huge.
2. Asante Samuel’s pick-6 of Carson Palmer: In the middle of the fourth quarter, the Falcons were tied at 13 with the Raiders. The Raiders were driving, and made their way to the Atlanta 28-yard line. Things were looking grim. But Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer threw a pass to Denarius Moore, the route was jumped by Asante Samuel, and he completely bailed out the Falcons defense by returning it for a touchdown, to give his team a 20-13 lead. Once again, this play denied the Raiders points, and generated points for the Falcons.
1. Matt Bryant’s game winning 55-yard field goal: Kicker Matt Bryant had made one very short field goal, but missed a 43-yarder earlier in the game. 55 yards is close to the extent of Bryant’s range. He hadn’t missed a field goal until today, so his psyche could have been shaken. To add to the chaos of the situation, Bryant missed the field goal that he attempted when the Raiders iced him. But when it mattered most, and in the most stressful situation possible, Bryant positively drilled the game winning field goal that gave the Falcons the win. A miss would have doubtless sent the game to overtime. By splitting the uprights, Bryant clinched the Falcons sixth win in six chances.