Falcons-49ers: Late Field Goal Gives Atlanta a Victory for Second Week in a Row
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Roddy White has made the Pro Bowl as a receiver twice in his career, and his pass-catching ability has been one of the main reasons behind Atlanta's recent turnaround.
On Sunday, however, his best play came on defense, making a Pro Bowl-caliber play on that side of the ball as well.
With less than two minutes left, the Falcons trailed San Francisco 14-13 and were attempting to get into field goal range. Matt Ryan threw an interception to Nate Clements around midfield, and Clements raced down the sideline attempting to score a touchdown.
Clements made it all the way to Atlanta's 10-yard line before White caught up to him and stripped the ball from behind. Atlanta's Harvey Dahl recovered the fumble, and the Falcons went on to win on a late 43-yard field goal by Matt Bryant.
Clements may have been better off taking a knee after his interception, allowing his offense to, at the very least, make Atlanta burn all their timeouts. Had the 49ers been able to get a first down in such a scenario, the game would have been over.
Of all teams, San Francisco should have been prepared for White's ability to do this, as he chased down the 49ers' Dre' Bly and caused a fumble after an interception in Week 5 last year.
White finished the day with seven receptions for 104 yards, with three of his catches and 41 of his yards coming after his forced fumble. He also made a fine catch on a 20-yard pass from Ryan on that final drive.
White is currently on pace for 128 catches, 1,448 yards, and eight touchdowns. He could find himself in the MVP discussion if he continues to make plays like he did on Sunday.
Neither quarterback had a day to remember, each throwing one touchdown to two interceptions.
San Francisco's Alex Smith completed 21 of 32 passes for 188 yards. His touchdown came on a 12-yard catch-and-run by Vernon Davis, who had 36 yards on four catches. Both his interceptions were costly, as they both came in Atlanta territory, negating the possibility of even attempting field goals, taking a possible six points off the board in a game the team lost by two.
The Falcons' Matt Ryan was 26-of-43 for 273 yards on the day. Ryan's two interceptions also almost spelled doom for his team, his first coming inside the Niners' red zone. The ball was tipped, making it not necessarily the result of a bad decision, but it goes down on the stat sheet as an interception nonetheless. He was saved by White on his second pick.
Ryan's lone touchdown pass was an eight-yard strike to Harry Douglas, who had three catches for 59 yards.
Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez became the first tight end in NFL history to amass 12,000 receiving yards, catching seven balls for 41 yards.
Neither team was able to get much going in the running game with Atlanta's Michael Turner going for 50 yards on 16 carries and San Fran's Frank Gore totaling 77 yards on 21 attempts. The Falcons' Jason Snelling added 31 yards in seven tries.
Atlanta's defense, considered a weakness in 2009, has come on strong this year, allowing just 15 points a game, good for sixth in the league. They also rank third in turnovers forced with 10, including eight interceptions.
The team as a whole is the best in the NFC in terms of turnover differential with five more takeaways than giveaways.
A defense that gives up 15 points per game to go with an offense that scores 23.3 points per game (ninth best in the league) is a recipe for success.
San Francisco, on the other hand, is near the bottom in terms of both points scored and points allowed, troubling for a team that was expected to have one of the top defenses in the NFL. Their 14 points on Sunday is a bit misleading, as the offense scored just one touchdown, the other coming on a blocked punt by their special teams unit.
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