No. 5: Tony Gonzalez Makes More History
It didn't result in a win for the Falcons in their first matchup against the Saints in 2012, but Tony Gonzalez's second-quarter touchdown grab added another line in the record books that the beloved Falcon has rewritten as a tight end. The TD was his 100th scoring grab of his career and he became just the eighth player in NFL history to reach that plateau. It also landed him in sixth place on the league's TD reception list. It was one of those memorable days for Gonzalez, in a season filled with them, as he caught 11 passes for 122 yards and two TDs, one of the best single-game performances of his career. He became just the second player in history to catch 1,200 career passes. It was also his 30th 100-yard game, a current record for tight ends.
No. 4: Denver Pick Fest It's not unusual to face future Hall-of-Famers, but it's rare to make them experience one of the worst games of their careers. In the first quarter against Peyton Manning and Denver in Week 2, Atlanta unveiled its Mike Nolan amoeba defense, a scheme designed to disguise and confuse, and intercepted Manning three times. Add in the fact that the performance came during Monday Night Football and it's an even more impressive accomplishment for Atlanta's defense. William Moore got things started on Denver's opening drive, intercepting Manning's second pass, a takeaway that led to seven points for the Falcons. Moore's partner at safety, Thomas DeCoud, kept things going, taking the ball from Manning on the following possession and returned it for 15 yards. Through those first four pass attempts, Manning completed one to his teammates and two to Atlanta. Newcomer Robert McClain took the spotlight into his own hands on the third Denver possession, interception Manning at the Atlanta 15 and returned it 37 yards. Their efforts resulted in a 27-21 win by the Falcons.
No. 3: A Carolina ComebackIt was the first of a number of comebacks for the Falcons in 2012 and it will stand out as one of the most memorable regular season games many Falcons fans have ever seen. After losing a fourth-quarter lead against the Panthers, Atlanta clawed its way back, hitting a field goal to draw within one. After two stops on defense, the Falcons offense had one final chance to take the game back from the Panthers, starting on the 1-yard line with 59 seconds remaining. The first play was one of the biggest of the season: a 59-yard pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White that showed how explosive and dangerous Atlanta's offense can be with one flick of the wrist. Gains by Gonzalez and Harry Douglas got the Falcons into field goal position and with 10 seconds remaining, kicker Matt Bryant and his crew lined up for the game-winner. The 40-yard attempt was good and Atlanta improved to 4-0.The game-winning drive was Ryan's 17th fourth-quarter go-ahead drive in his career and it was the third straight time he'd done so against the Panthers.
No. 2: Saints National ShowcaseThe real "moment" of this game was when the game clock struck double zeros and the Falcons ended a slide against the Saints and may be the first step in turning the advantage in the yearly showdown back to the Falcons. Most notable in this game was Atlanta's defense intercepting QB Drew Brees five times, the first time in his career that happened. It was the eighth time in franchise history the Falcons have record five interceptions in a game and the first time since 1980. The win also represented the first time in 54 games Brees didn't throw a TD pass, a record that Atlanta ended in its Thursday night nationally televised game.
No. 1: Seattle Saver Ryan's sixth fourth-quarter comeback of the 2012 season was the biggest of the season and his career, but it was once again kicker Matt Bryant who stole the show. After losing their lead very late, the Falcons had one final shot with 31 seconds remaining to get the first playoff win under head coach Mike Smith. A big 34-yard kick return by Jacquizz Rodgers jumpstarted the drive and the two Matts did the rest. Reminiscent of earlier in the season against Carolina, Ryan connected with Douglas and Gonzalez to get into field goal range and from there it was Bryant's game to win. A timeout prior to his first kick wiped out a miss and he got one more shot to connect on the necessary 49-yard field goal. The Georgia Dome erupted into one of the loudest moments ever heard inside the stadium as Bryant's kick sailed through the uprights. It was Ryan's 22nd game-winning drive in the fourth quarter and Bryant's sixth game-winning field goal with the Falcons. The kick itself was the second-longest game-winner for Bryant as a Falcon and it represented the brightest moment of the Falcons 2012 season as well as one of the most important moments in franchise history.