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10/14/2012 9:10 PM EDT
Bryant's kick pushes Falcons past Raiders 23-20
ATLANTA 23, OAKLAND 20

By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) -- Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have plenty of
mistakes to work on during their bye week.



Of course, it's sure easier to fix the problems when you're
still unbeaten.



Asante Samuel returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown
in the closing minutes and Matt Bryant connected on a 55-yard
field goal with 1 second remaining, allowing the Falcons to
escape with a sloppy 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on
Sunday.



Overcoming three interceptions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons (6-0)
extended the best start in franchise history.



It wasn't easy against the pesky Raiders (1-4), who bounced back
from Samuel's pick to tie the game with less than a minute to
go, but left a little too much time on the clock for Atlanta's
final possession.



Ryan completed four short passes, the last of them a 13-yarder
to Tony Gonzalez that got Bryant in range for his longest field
goal since joining the Falcons in 2009 - and his second
game-winning kick in three weeks. He beat the Panthers 30-28 on
a 40-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.



"He knows how to get himself prepared, how to calm himself down,
how to get it through those pipes," Ryan said. "He's made a lot
of clutch kicks for us through the years."



Bryant actually missed one early, pulling a 43-yarder wide left
to break a streak of 23 consecutive field goals going back to
last season. He bounced back to connect from 41 and 20 yards
before making the one that really mattered.



"Missing that one early kind of woke me up a little bit to focus
even harder," Bryant said.



After a mostly ugly game, the final 3 minutes were thrilling.
Tied at 13, the Raiders were in position for a go-ahead field
goal when Samuel stepped in front of Carson Palmer's pass at the
Atlanta 21 and returned it for a touchdown, racing to the end
zone right in front of the Falcons' bench.



Palmer shook off that huge mistake, leading the Raiders down the
field for the tying score. He connected with Derek Hagan on a
38-yard pass to the Atlanta 5, and Darren McFadden scored on a
2-yard run with 40 seconds left.



Just enough time for the Falcons, it turned out.



"You don't want to tell your back to take a knee," Raiders
rookie coach Dennis Allen said. "We wanted to use up as much
time as we possibly could, and unfortunately we gave them a
little bit too much."



Ryan finished 24 of 37 for 249 yards and equaled his career high
for picks, matching the three he had against New Orleans in
2009.



But he was cool as can be with the game on the line.



"We've been in these situations before," Ryan said. "We know
what we need to do."



It was Ryan's 19th winning drive in the fourth quarter or
overtime, the most of any quarterback in his first five seasons
during the Super Bowl era.



Palmer was 23 of 33 for 353 yards, putting up much better rating
than Ryan. But the Raiders quarterback was kicking himself for
that one devastating play: the pick by Samuel.



"Put the blame on me," Palmer said. "It's completely my fault."



Ryan came into the game with three interceptions in the first
five weeks. He doubled his total by halftime.



On the fourth snap of the day, Ryan went over the middle looking
for Harry Douglas but didn't see cornerback Joselio Hanson.
Atlanta's third possession ended the same way. Ryan made an
ill-advised decision to throw deep to Julio Jones, despite
triple coverage. Michael Huff made an easy interception at the
Oakland 2. Late in the second quarter, with Atlanta clinging to
a 7-6 lead, Ryan got popped by blitzing linebacker Philip
Wheeler just as he released the ball. The fluttering pass
settled right in the arms of safety Tyvon Branch, giving Oakland
the ball at the Falcons 28.



The Raiders quickly seized on the third interception. Palmer
flipped a short pass to Denarius Moore, who took it all the way
to the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown that gave Oakland a 13-7
lead at halftime. Sebastian Janikowski connected on field goals
of 52 and 22 yards, while the Falcons' lone score was Ryan's
4-yard pass to Roddy White, capping a 10-play, 80-yard drive.



The third quarter turned into a defensive slog, the only points
coming on Bryant's first two field goals.



John Abraham had a huge day on the Falcons' defense. He sacked
Palmer three times and gave Atlanta's sputtering offense a
chance to retake the lead in the third when he stripped the ball
away from the quarterback just before his right arm came
forward. Ray Edwards scooped up the fumble and rumbled to the
Oakland 2.



But the Raiders held. Michael Turner was stopped just short of
the goal line and, even after an offside penalty moved the tip
of ball just short of the end zone, Atlanta couldn't get it in.
Jason Snelling was thrown for a 2-yard loss on third down,
forcing Atlanta to settle for Bryant's 20-yard field goal that
tied the game at 13.



NOTES: Ryan is 29-4 in home starts, the best record by a QB
since 1970. ... Falcons coach Mike Smith improved his career
record to 49-21, tying Dan Reeves as the winningest coach in
team history. ... The Raiders rushed for 149 yards, more than
double their NFL-worst average. But McFadden had another tough
day, averaging 2.6 yards on 27 carries. ... One week after
making 13 catches against the Redskins, Gonzales was held to
four receptions for 42 yards.



---



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