Falcons Comeback Falls Short in 26-24 Thriller

The Falcons take on the Browns as they honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces during the annual Salute to Service game. Here are photos from gameday.


The Atlanta Falcons didn't hesitate after winning the coin toss, electing to receive. Falcons wide receiver Roddy White continued his consecutive-games-with-a-reception streak (122) on the opening drive, hauling in a 20-yard pass on 3rd-and-7. Cleveland forced Atlanta to punt four plays later.

On the field for the first time in the game, the Atlanta defense kept the Browns from crossing midfield, thanks to a third down pass breakup by cornerback Desmond Trufant, defending Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon.

The Falcons' defensive momentum carried over to the offense on the game's next drive. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan directed a 10-play drive that covered 57 yards in 4:26, ending in the hands of wide receiver Julio Jones for a 24-yard score.ATL 7 CLE 0.

Trailing 7-0, Cleveland took to the air on its ensuing drive. Gordon grabbed a 12-yard reception on 3rd-and-6 to move the sticks, spurring a series of big plays. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer connected with wide receiver Andrew Hawkins for 17 yards on the very next play, followed later by a 22-yard reception by Gordon. Two plays later, Browns running back Isaiah Crowell scored on an 11-yard rush, to tie the game. ATL 7 CLE 7.


The Falcons opened the second quarter facing a 3rd-and-9 from their own 10-yard line. Ryan tried to connect with Jones down the left sideline but instead was picked off by Browns cornerback Joe Haden. Despite prime field position for the Browns at the Falcons 29-yard line, Atlanta's defense responded. Cleveland moved the ball 14 yards in five plays, before Browns kicker Billy Cundiff booted a 33-yard field goal.CLE 10 ATL 7.

The Browns' momentum continued on defense, forcing a second-straight turnover. Ryan again dropped back to throw when he was hit and stripped of the ball by Browns linebacker Paul Kruger, recovered by defensive lineman Desmond Bryant at the Atlanta 40-yard line. Asked to respond again, the Falcons defense did just that, holding Cleveland to three points, a 37-yard field goal by Cundiff.CLE 13 ATL 7.

The highlight on the Falcons' next offensive drive was a 32-yard strike from Ryan to White on a 3rd-and-11 from the Atlanta 19-yard line. Four plays later, Cleveland forced a Falcons punt.

It's as if the Falcons defense was just asking for more playing time in Week 12. Trailing 13-7, Falcons safety Kemal Ishmael injected life into his team, intercepting Hoyer at the Atlanta 36-yard line. It was Ishmael's third-straight game with a pick, his fourth of the year. The forced turnover led to points. Ryan went right to the air, finding Jones for a 21-yard gain to Cleveland's 29-yard line. Six plays later, Ryan found running back Jacquizz Rodgers for an 8-yard touchdown pass.ATL 14 CLE 13.

Cleveland tried to close out the first half with a 60-yard field goal by Cundiff, but the kick fell short and was returned by Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester for 75 yards, nearly breaking one last tackle for what would have been a remarkable score. The second quarter ended as the Falcons held to a 14-13 lead.


Atlanta kicked off in the second half, and the Browns gained early momentum. Hoyer led Cleveland on an 11-play drive, covering 66 yards in 5:14, ending with a 32-yard field goal by Cundiff for a 16-14 lead. Meanwhile, Atlanta's first offensive drive of the second half ended in a punt.

The Browns added to their lead on the game's next drive. Crowell capped off a nine-play scoring drive that lasted 4:58, covering 70 yards, with a 26-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game. Falcons cornerback Robert McClain injured his calf during the play and did not return to the game.CLE 23 ATL 14.

Cleveland took its 23-14 lead into the fourth quarter.


Just when the Falcons needed a scoring drive the most, they got it. Known for his poise, Ryan led an 80-yard drive that used 14 plays, taking 6:15 off the clock, ending with a 1-yard touchdown run by Steven Jackson. CLE 23 ATL 21.

The Browns looked as if they were going to march right into the end zone on their next drive, but Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant had other plans. Cleveland moved all the way to the Falcons' 6-yard line before Trufant picked off Hoyer with a remarkable grab in the back of the end zone. Unfortunately for the Falcons, the team's offense was forced to punt six plays later.

With less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, the Browns faced a 3rd-and-7 from their own 19-yard line. Falcons rookie safety Dezmen Southward stepped into the spotlight, intercepting Hoyer at the 50-yard line.* *

On their ensuing drive, facing a 3rd-and-1, the Falcons turned to their bruising back as Jackson gained three yards to move the sticks. Four plays later, the Falcons called on kicker Matt Bryant for a 53-yard field goal, and he didn't disappoint. Bryant split the uprights, giving the Falcons a 24-23 lead.

The lead didn't last long for Atlanta as Hoyer moved the Browns into field goal range. Cleveland milked the rest of the clock in the fourth quarter (:44), using seven plays to go 61 yards, before Cundiff stepped onto the field with :05 left and connected on a 37-yard field goal for the win. CLE 26 ATL 24.

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