DETROIT -- In one of the wildest endings the NFL has seen, the Falcons (3-0) beat the Detroit Lions (2-1) to remain perfect on the season. A critical call by the officials overturned a Lions' touchdown by Golden Tate with eight seconds remaining, ruling him to be stopped just short of the goal line. As Detroit had no timeouts left, the decision led to a 10-second runoff on the play clock, preserving the 30-26 win for Atlanta.
Take a deep breath Falcons fans; here are the main takeaways from Atlanta's third victory of the 2017 season:
A win is the only thing that matters
Pretty or not, a win is a win – and that's all that matters.
There were turnovers, there were controversial penalties and, some would argue, a few missed calls. Oh, and there were also plenty of field goals – seven to be exact.
In other words, some games – some wins – aren't as pretty as others.
And while there's still much to digest and dissect from Falcons-Lions thriller, all that matters in the end is that Atlanta leaves Detroit with 30-26 win – albeit on a 10-second runoff.
Now the Falcons sit atop the NFC South at 3-0 as the only unbeaten team in the conference. And only three undefeated teams remain in the NFL – the Chiefs, Raiders and the Falcons.
Even better? Those three wins are all over conference opponents, including two contenders in the Packers and Lions. That will be big come December and January.
Ryan's first three interceptions of the season
Under Quinn, the Falcons have employed an aggressive mentality on both offense and defense. With a 17-6 lead and just under two minutes remaining in the first half, Atlanta sought to add more points to their total and continue to build momentum.
On the first play of their fourth offensive series, Ryan's pass to Julio Jones was intercepted by Lions safety Glover Quin and returned 37 yards for a touchdown. It was Ryan's first interception of the season but a costly one, as it cut the Falcons' lead to four points.
In the third quarter, Ryan was intercepted once more. After hurrying to the line following a third-down completion to Taylor Gabriel, Ryan threw a pass to Tevin Coleman coming out of the backfield as the Lions' pass rush closed in around him. The pass bounced off the hands of Coleman and was intercepted by cornerback Darius Slay Jr.
Detroit kicked a field goal after forcing the turnover, tying the game at 23.
Ryan's third interception came off another tipped ball. Nearing the end zone after an impressive offensive drive, Ryan's pass to Sanu slipped through the receiver's hands and into the grasp of Slay, who returned the interception 37 yards before being knocked out of bounds by Taylor Gabriel.
The Falcons' defense held firm, however, forcing a three-and-out and preserving the 30-26 lead. The last time Ryan threw three interceptions in a victory was in 2012. He tossed three picks against Oakland in a 23-20 win and five interceptions in a 23-19 win against Arizona.
Another fast start for the offense
The Falcons offense has scored points on every opening possession so far this season. Against the Lions, Atlanta covered 70 yards on 12 plays and scored on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu.
On Friday, Falcons coach Dan Quinn explained what a fast start means to him and why it's more than just a good opening drive.
"We want to make sure we're aggressive," Quinn said. "I loved our mindset coming out to go after it. So, a fast start, it's the way we come off the ball. A fast start is the intent that you're going with. That's a fast start to me, too. It doesn't have to be this many drives – that's nice, that's a good by-product of coming out strong and ready, and that's what I look for the most."
Takk records first career sack
It wasn't a great day overall for the Falcons' defense, which gave up 324 yards of offense and had two nearly devastating penalties at the end of the game, but a high point was Takk McKinley registering the first sack of his NFL career.
Coming off the right side in the third quarter, McKinley dropped Matthew Stafford for a 3-yard loss. He immediately signaled upward, presumably in honor of his grandmother.
Big day from Falcons running backs
Atlanta established the run early against Detroit, which helped open up the rest of the offense on Sunday. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were active in all facets of the game, turning in a pair of noteworthy performances.
Late in the game, when Atlanta needed to bleed away the clock, Freeman and Coleman came through. The two were instrumental in helping the Falcons maintain long possessions in the second half and pick up critical first downs. The offensive line deserves special recognition for opening up holes in the middle and setting the edge for the running backs.
Freeman again led the way for the Falcons on the ground, gaining 106 yards on 21 carries with a touchdown; he also had three receptions for 32 yards. Coleman continued to prove his versatility, running for 46 yards on six carries and catching three passes for another 43 yards.
Bryant continues to show great consistency
While the Falcons offense is considered one of the best in the NFL, kicker Matt Bryant has played a big role in helping put points on the board over the years. Against Detroit, he was once again a major factor.
Bryant converted all three of his attempts on Sunday, making field goals from 36, 48 and 40 yards.
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