Things keep going Falcons way

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. -- They may not like to be called destiny's child but they are certainly Houdini's.

The Atlanta Falcons were outplayed by a wide margin by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the opening 50 minutes of Sunday's game and at that time found themselves on the wrong side of a 24-14 score.

But like they have so often this season, the Falcons plucked a victory from the jaws of defeat thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns and sealed the deal with an interception with less than two minutes to go on the Bucs' last-hope express.

The victory raised Atlanta's record to 10-2 and virtually insured that they will finish the season with the best record in the NFC and with it be the No. 1 seed meaning that all future postseason games will be played inside the Georgia Dome, where they and quarterback Matt Ryan are virtually unbeatable.

In the aftermath of Sunday's victory, just outside their locker room, stood the drained looking Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Instead of victory written all over his face, there was agony and exhaustion.

"We weren't at our best but good teams find a way to win games like this," he said. "But honestly, it would be nice if we could win some games a little more convincingly. This is tough to watch."

To use a gambling metaphor, you have to wonder how many inside straights the Falcons are going to hit.

Take the 102-yard kickoff return by tiny kick returner Eric Weems that kick-started their rally following the Bucs third touchdown of the day that had forged the 24-14 lead.

Dating back to 2002, Atlanta had 479 kickoffs without returning one for a touchdown. Maybe they were overdue.

But then Weems did his tightrope dance up the right sidelines and the rest, as they say, is history.

Pulling games out in the final minutes has been the Falcons' calling card this season, so Sunday's heroics against the Bucs was simply more of the same. Nothing to get all worked up about.

"I don't know what you call it, but I'll take it," veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez said of the Falcons ability to pull wins out of the hat. "All I know is we have something pretty special going right now and the biggest positive I take about this is, we can get a lot better."

Ryan, who goes by the nickname 'Matty Ice' for his cool play in gut-check situations, has been absolutely aces in clutch situations this season. The victory marked the sixth time this season that Ryan has led his team to fourth-quarter comebacks.

Three times he has led the Falcons to game-winning drives inside the final two minutes of play including victories over Green Bay and Baltimore.

"We felt like we could go down the field and score, we were confident in that situation," Ryan said of Sunday's drive that gave them the lead with just over four minutes left in the game.

"We've been in those situations a number of times this year and we made the plays when we needed to.

"It says a lot about our resolve. We've been in these situations a number of times this year and we've been successful. Nobody panicked because we understand that we can make plays when we need to.

"We were a confident football team at the start of this year but having played through a number of different situations I think our confidence has grown."

Week after week, they just seem to get it done with a roster that is not dotted with Pro Bowl players and household names.

And their 10-2 record isn't forged on the back of a pattycake schedule.

Not only do the face New Orleans and Tampa twice within their division, but they have also drawn Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Green Bay. They close out with two games against the pathetic Panthers, one against the dreadful Seahawks and a re-do against the Saints in New Orleans on Dec. 27. A worse-case scenario is a 13-3 season.

Their two losses came against the Steelers (15- 9) in the opening week of the season and Oct. 17 when they were thrashed 31-17 by the Eagles. With Sunday's victory they have now won six in a row, five of the games by seven points or less.

Along the way they have earned grudging respect from their foes.

"That's what veteran teams do," said Tampa head coach Raheem Morris of the Falcons. "That's what really good teams do. The really good teams find a way to finish games."

This season the Falcons have the look of a winner, the look of a team that is smiled upon by the football gods.

They have the look of a team that is ready to go all the way and finish out a season.


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