Matchup of unbeatens goes Atlanta’s way in wild finish
DETROIT (AP) The weekend’s only matchup of unbeaten teams lived up to expectations – and the Atlanta Falcons held on by inches.
The Falcons beat the Detroit Lions 30-26 on Sunday when Golden Tate’s touchdown in the final seconds was overturned following a review.
He was ruled short of the goal line, and since he was inbounds and the Lions had no timeouts left, a 10-second runoff ended the game.
Atlanta (3-0) looked like the better team for most of the day, but the Falcons had to overcome three interceptions by Matt Ryan.
”It comes down to taking care of the football, for sure. We talk about that all the time,” Ryan said. ”When you’re minus-3 in the turnover differential it’s tough to overcome that. We were able to do it today, but that’s certainly something that we have to clean up moving forward.”
Devonta Freeman ran for 106 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons, who led 17-3 in the second quarter.
Detroit (2-1) tied it at 23 late in the third and was down by four at the end, with first-and-goal from the 1-yard line and 19 seconds remaining.
Matthew Stafford threw two incompletions, then his pass to Tate was initially ruled a touchdown with 8 seconds left. That call was changed after a review, and the accompanying runoff denied Detroit any chance to run another play.
”Never saw one like that,” Lions safety Glover Quin said.
Quin returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to make the score 17-13. The Falcons led 20-13 at halftime.
It was tied at the start of the fourth, but on the first play of the final period, Atlanta’s Taylor Gabriel took a short pass and went all the way for a 40-yard touchdown.
Here are a few things we learned from Atlanta’s victory:
Freeman and the Falcons proved they could move the ball against what could be one of the league’s tougher defenses.
The Lions had been impressive on that side of the ball in their previous game against the New York Giants, but Atlanta was tough to stop, aside from its turnover problems.
The Falcons didn’t have to punt until the fourth quarter.
”It’s a win,” Freeman said. ”It don’t even matter how we got it. It don’t matter how you want to call it.”
Although the Lions have had some obscure rules work against them over the years , they don’t seem to be blaming the officials after this one. Coach Jim Caldwell said they applied the rule correctly, and Stafford said he was aware that the review could lead to a runoff.
”It wasn’t in my head at the time,” he said. ”Then I looked up at the clock and saw the second count and knew that it was either going to be positive or negative right there.”
The Falcons are clearly talented, but the defending NFC champions still make the occasional mistake. Ryan was intercepted for the first time in 10 games, including last season’s playoffs. Two of his interceptions came on deflections, however.
The last one was particularly costly because it came deep in Detroit territory in the fourth quarter, when Atlanta was trying to pad its lead.
Matt Prater’s leg is still quite an asset for Detroit. He made field goals of 55 and 57 yards, giving him 11 kicks of at least 55 in his career. Only Sebastian Janikowski (13) has more.
The previous time the Falcons and Lions faced each other was in London in 2014, and in that game the weird ending went Detroit’s way. Prater’s attempt at a game-winning field goal went wide right, but the play didn’t count because Detroit was flagged for delay of game. One mistake canceled out the other, and Prater got to try again. His kick was good, giving the Lions a 22-21 win.
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