Falcons Setting Late-Game Heroics Records

Posted Nov 27, 2012

Fans of the Falcons may be growing weary from all the close games Atlanta has played this season, but far more often than not, they've come out on top in the close ones. What Matt Ryan and the Falcons have done in close games under Mike Smith is reason to celebrate as the Falcons are 29-11 in one-score games since 2008.

The Falcons' only loss this season was in Week 10, a 31-27 loss to the Saints. It was a four-point loss, but it's not the only four-point game the Falcons have been involved in this season and it's definitely not the only close game Atlanta has seen in 2012.

Last week's 24-23 heart-stopping win over the division rival Tampa Bay Bucs was the eighth game this season the Falcons have played that was decided by one score, improving their record in such games to 7-1. The Falcons are 3-0 this season in games determined by three points or less. Last Sunday's win was the first one-point win the Falcons have had this season.

Under head coach Mike Smith since 2008, the Falcons are 29-11 in one-score games and their .725 winning percentage since then is tops in the NFL.

The Falcons have demonstrated an ability to win the close game in a variety of ways each week this season, routinely relying on one aspect of the team to come to the entire team's aid when one phase of the game is struggling. It's been a mark of the franchise under Smith and this season's close-cutting ways are of historic fashion. Atlanta's seven wins by one score or less is tied with the 2006 Colts for the most wins during a 10-1 or 11-0 start. That season the Colts finished 12-4 and were Super Bowl XLI champions.

“Just to be able to come in here, in this type of environment and stop their momentum… to be honest, we could have played a little better, but when you win close games like that, it’s only a positive," tight end Tony Gonzalez said of Atlanta's most recent close win. "Knowing that you can come up with plays when you have to, and the defense stepped up when they had to, offense stepped up when they had to. Our special teams wasn’t working like we wanted to as far as the kicking game goes, (but) we just kind of have each others’ backs and that’s all it does, it keeps your confidence going forward.”

Sunday's win over the Bucs required another comeback in the fourth quarter to secure the win. Down 23-17, Ryan and the Falcons took over with 10:21 remaining in the game and drove for the final score. It was the second week in a row Ryan engineered a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and the fifth time this season.

In his career, Ryan has conducted 21 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime. That total is the highest by a quarterback since 2008, Ryan's rookie season, and the most by a QB in his first five years in the NFL since 1966.

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