Falcons pull off another comeback

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:01 AM ET

TAMPA, Fla. — The Atlanta Falcons haven’t cornered the market on comebacks and being resilient — it just seems that way.

Down 10 points to Tampa Bay with just over 10 minutes left to go, the Falcons simply reached into their bottomless bag of game-changing plays to pull off another miracle comeback and gut the young Bucs 28-24 on Sunday.

With 10:24 left in the game, the Bucs had just converted another Matt Ryan interception into a trick play touchdown as running back Earnest Graham took a pitch from quarterback Josh Freeman, ran right then tossed to a wide open John Gilmore in the end zone to put the Bucs ahead 24-14.

On the Falcons’ side of the field, there may as well have been yawns.

Not to worry. they said with a collective shrug, we’ve been here, done that and we have the chops and the talent to smack the young Bucs aside.

And that’s just what they did.

“Sometimes you’ve got to find a way to win a game when you’re not at your best and we obviously didn’t play our best today,” Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. “ We were down by 10 points with 10 minutes to go but we talk all the time about being resilient and somebody’s got to step up and make a play and the play today was the play of our kickoff return team. It was a great individual effort by Eric Weems.”

The fans in the seats at the far less than sold out Raymond James Stadium had not even finished their TD celebration when Connor Barth kicked off, sending the ball to Weems, the Falcons’ vertically challenged kick returner, two yards deep in the end zone.

Weems would motor up the right sideline, brush of a number of attempts to knock him out of bounds, and suddenly break into the clear and rumble more than race into the end zone to stun both the Bucs and their fans.

It was a portent of things to come, a signal like a beacon that the Falcons were on the way back and the Bucs were in the crapper.

The stunned Bucs went three and out on their next possession and now it was time for the Falcons to lower the hammer.

Starting at their 33, they relentlessly marched down field taking 10 plays and 3:59 before Matt Ryan found Michael Jenkins for a nine-yard TD strike that made it 28-24 Atlanta.

The Bucs weren’t dead quite yet as with 4:31 to play, they started a drive that took them to the Falcons 27 by the two-minute warning.

On the next play, however, the Falcons’ Brent Grimes stepped in front of a Freeman pass attempt to Mike Williams and that was all she wrote.

It left the Falcons at 10-2 and with the best record in the NFC while the loss, the second in a row for the Bucs, dropped them to 7-5 and in need of a miracle to reach the post-season.

“We felt we outplayed them most of the game but they came out and found a way to win,” a despondent Freeman said. “I wouldn’t say they’re the better team but they found a way to win.

“It was a rough one today.”

He was asked what happened on the final interception.

“It’s on me as the quarterback to get the ball in position to make plays but in the end I didn’t do that,” he replied.

“This was a tough one today. It was one we felt we really should have got, really should have won but the Falcons are a tough team and 10-2 for a reason. We’ve got four bullets left (four games) and we’ve got to make them count.”

This season, the Falcons are the team that is always able to make them count and unless they totally fall apart over the final four weeks, this game pointed to the fact that the road to the NFC championship will ride through Atlanta.

Pulling out games in the final seconds has been the Falcons trademark this season but even so, in no way does this team believe it is a team of destiny.

“I don’t think anybody buys into that too much,” Ryan said. “We know that in this league there is a lot of talent and anything can happen on any given Sunday. We’re a confident football club and we believe in ourselves.

“When you come out and you don’t play as well as you would like and still find a way to win, those are signs of a good football team and we feel like today was a good example of that for us.”

Sorry. but if that’s not destiny, then what is?


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