A funny thing happened on the way to the protest – a football game broke out.
As total pandemonium broke out around the NFL Sunday following President Trump’s comments about kneeling for the National Anthem many a team protested by either kneeling, staying in the locker or locking arms instead of placing their hands over their heart. I don’t want to talk politic here and many of you wouldn’t like what I have to say, s let’s talk football.
Football has been called a game of inches for as long as I can remember and those inches – or inch came in handy on what turned out to be the last play of the game at Ford Field as the Atlanta Falcons escaped with a 30-26 win over the Detroit Lions.
With eight seconds remaining it appeared Golden Tate has scored the winning touchdown for the Lions who never led in the game. Upon further review it was ruled that his knee (ironic, ain’t it?) was down before the ball crossed the goal line preserving the win for the still undefeated Falcons. NFL rules state that there is a ten second run off of the clock after the ruling and Detroit without timeouts was unable to stop the clock.
“Man, what a team effort yesterday. I said after the game I was really pumped. I thought with the resiliency of the defense coming back making some stops in some really opportune times, especially after some turnovers. We knew it was going to take everything, and we talked about that all the way through,” said Falcons head coach Dan Quinn
Besides the weird politics taking place on the football field the game was even weirder on the field highlighted by the final play. For the Falcons it was a tale of two halves as the offense was on the go the whole time and only had 30 points to show for it. 30 sounds like a lot of points but when you consider the first time they punted on the day came with 3:20 to play in the game. There were a lot of missed opportunities and mistakes made.
Matt Ryan digressed to his 2015 form. After going over 200 attempts without an interception he tried to make up ground throwing three although two weren’t really his fault as the ball bounced in the air twice to be picked off by awaiting Detroit defenders.
The first interception in the second quarter a pick-six totally changed the complexion of the game and the offense could not get back on track although the running duo of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for over 150 yards on the ground and more through the air. A game that ended on a somewhat controversial call did not give any indication early that this game would be close whatsoever.
The Ford Field crowd quieted down after an interesting National Anthem that saw kneeling on both sides as well as the performer of the anthem.
The Falcons made quick work as they cruised down field rather efficiently as they took 6:43 off the clock finishing the drive as Matt Ryan hit Mohammed Sanu at the left corner of the goal line for a 7-0 lead. The two teams exchanged field goals before Freeman scored from a yard out to extend the Atlanta lead to 17-3 with five minutes remaining in the half.
With less than two minutes to play Matt Prater kicked his second of four field goals on the day to pull within 17-6. That’s when the Atlanta momentum and offensive scoring stated to dry up.
With a first down at the 25 Ryan attempted to hit Julio Jones off the play action and was picked off by Glover Quin who returned the interception 37 yards to bring the Lions within four points. And while Atlanta didn’t initially appear unsettled by the turn of events scoring on a 48-yard Matt Bryant field goal with 31 second remaining in the half the passing game seemed to lose it groove. If it wasn’t for Coleman and Freeman there’s no telling what might have happened.
The Lions managed to tie the game in the third quarter before Ryan was able to regain some composure hitting Taylor Gabriel on a 40-yard pitch and run. Detroit answered with a field goal and all came down to the final drive that the Falcons miraculously survived.
Ryan had another conservative game under center as he failed to throw for 300 yards for a second game. The offensive line was shaky at best as Ryan saw a lot of pressure as he was sacked twice. Ryan suffered his lowest QB rating in quite some time, as it was 77.6. The Lions’ Matthew Stafford didn’t fare much better as his QB rating was 80.2. Stafford completed only 56 percent of his passes on the day and the Atlanta defense once again shut down the opposition’s running game allowing only 71 yards. The Falcon defense hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the Eagles game last season a streak of nine games not including the playoffs.
The Falcons are now 3-0 heading into their game Sunday at home against Buffalo. I trend I’ve noticed on both sides of the ball is that the team seems to run out of steam during the fourth quarter and hold on for dear life. Both the season opener in Chicago and this game against the Lions literally came down to the last play of the game. In week two the Packers made what was becoming a blowout into a competitive game towards the end. I’m not sure what adjustments need to be made.
Atlanta returns home Sunday to Mercedes Benz Stadium to host the Buffalo Bills. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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