Falcons kicker Matt Bryant may have a sixth sense. Four days before kicking three field goals against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, including his 52-yard game-winner in overtime, he told me that he expects such clutch-kick scenarios to happen, preparing for them by approaching every kick the same way.
That's right — Bryant approaches a routine PAT as if he's about to send the pigskin through the uprights from 50-plus yards away. The high-powered Falcons offense gave Bryant plenty of reps, regardless of distance, throughout the Week 1 win.
Rep 1: Bryant makes good on a PAT, following the 2-yard TD pass from Falcons QB Matt Ryan to Falcons WR Roddy White.
Rep 2: Bryant nails a 40-yard FG to draw the Falcons within 10 points, entering halftime, 20-10.
Rep 3: Bryant adds another PAT, following Ryan's 1-yard TD pass to Falcons TE Levine Toilolo, pulling the team within three points, 20-17.
Rep 4: Bryant logs another PAT, following the remarkable 54-yard TD reception by Falcons RB Antone Smith, giving the Falcons a 24-20 lead.
Rep 5: Bryant adds another point, after Falcons RB Jacquizz Rodgers' highlight-worthy TD run of 17 yards, giving the Falcons a 31-27 lead.
Bryant said after the game that the 40-yard field goal he made in the second quarter ultimately allowed for his final two clutch kicks to take place, much to the joy of the 70,000-plus Falcons fans in attendance, as well as those watching from around the world.
Rep 6: Trailing 34-31, needing a 51-yard FG to extend the game, Bryant treated it as a PAT and split the uprights, tying the game, 34-34.
Rep 7: Following a remarkable stand by the Falcons defense, Ryan and company set Bryant up for the game-winning kick, this one from 52 yards away, piece of cake for the Falcons kicker, who delivered again, starting off the team's 2014 season with a bang.
"It's big," Bryant said of the win. "It was an NFC South opponent, the first game of the year; it got us off to a great start on so many different levels, getting confidence and just having a win under our belt."
Bryant said that his game-winning kick (17th in 14 years in the league, eighth as a Falcon) ranks right up near the top, but downplayed a lot of the hype, expecting to make the most of every opportunity that he gets. Since joining the team in 2009, Bryant has connected on 13-of-16 FGs of 50 yards-or-longer. Sunday's game-winning kick wasn't just a result of a good week of practice by the 39-year-old Bryant, it's much deeper than that.
"It goes back to when I was 7, 8, 9-years old, practicing with my dad," Bryant said. "There's a great line I heard (and have embraced), pressure is what you feel, when you're not prepared; I've been preparing for this a long time, so it's just a matter of going out and doing it again."