When was the last time you saw a QB throw five interceptions and come out with a win?
If you said 1967, you'd be correct, but not many knew that and the Falcons in their home locker room after a 23-19 win didn't know it either.
"I've never been a part of that, especially winning the game doing that," wide receiver Roddy White said Sunday afternoon after the win over the Cardinals.
For the first time in his career Matt Ryan threw five interceptions and the Falcons totaled six turnovers, but managed to escape with a win. It was the first time since '67 in the NFL that a QB's done so and still got a win. Hall of Famer Bart Starr was the last QB to "accomplish" this.
Sunday's win was mostly a defensive victory with Atlanta limiting the Cardinals to 178 yards, 41 from the quarterback, who was replaced in the second quarter by a backup rookie taking the first snaps of his career. After allowing a first quarter rushing touchdown, the Falcons kept Arizona out of the endzone for the rest of the game. There are no style points in the NFL and the Falcons came away with their ninth victory, but the offensive side of the ball gave much of the credit for the win to the defense.
"I felt like our defense played well all day," head coach Mike Smith said. "They were put in some very difficult situations in terms of field position and were able to step up and make some plays."
The Falcons turned things around early in the fourth quarter, turning one of their nine three-and-outs on defense into an opportunity for the offense.
On Atlanta's only touchdown of the game, Ryan was four-for-five passing and Harry Douglas, stepping up with Julio Jones on the sidelines with an injury, caught two passes for first downs. Douglas ended the day with five catches for 48 yards.
"I think Harry did an excellent job getting the drive started, making plays throughout that whole drive," White said. "That's what we've got to do. There are going to be times when one of us will get knick-knacked and other guys have got to step up."
White caught one pass on that drive (for 18 yards) but he was integral in what little success the Falcons offense had. His eight catch performance for 123 yards is the 33rd 100-yard receiving game of his career, a franchise record that continues to grow. He caught a pass on every scoring drive as rhythm on offense was something hard to come by with Tony Gonzalez well-covered and Jones out for much of the game.
It wasn't pretty. It was somewhat rare, but when things mattered most, as they've done a few other times this season, the Falcons came through.
"It's just one of those games," White said. "It didn't look good, we didn't go a lot of things good, but when we needed some good things, we did some good things and found a way to win."
Holding your breath and eking out a win isn't a bad thing, but Atlanta knows they can't continue to win this way. Comebacks in the fourth quarter are usually only necessary when your offense starts slow, which Atlanta's did on Sunday and a team that prides itself on fast starts needs to do as they say.
"It's inexcusable," Gonzalez said. "We can't do that. If we're the type of team that we think we are, we've got to come out way, way faster and get out to a better start than that. That's going to hurt us down the line. I'm very happy to come out with a victory."