Falcons-Browns: Atlanta Overcomes Slow Start in 20-10 Win
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The Atlanta Falcons' offense has made a number of winning plays late in games this year.
This week, though, it was the defense's turn to deliver the death blow.
With the Falcons leading 13-10 with under five minutes to play, defensive end Kroy Biermann deflected a Jake Delhomme pass high into the air, ran under the ball, dove to make the interception, then got up and ran into the end zone, effectively ending the game by putting Atlanta up 20-10.
Atlanta's defense came into the game with a league-high eight interceptions and added two to that mark, with linebacker Stephen Nicholas picking off a ball that appeared to bounce off the helmet of a Cleveland offensive lineman on the drive following Biermann's spectacular play.
The Falcons had trouble getting their passing game going early, but stayed patient, sticking with the running game until they were able to break a long 45-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Roddy White in the third quarter.
Ryan finished 16 of 28 for 187 yards and the touchdown. He did lose a fumble on Atlanta's first drive of the second half, but was otherwise mistake-free.
White totaled 101 yards on the day, continuing to show that he is one of the best receivers in the NFL.
Atlanta's coaching staff wanted to improve upon Michael Turner's 3.8 yards per rush average through the team's first four games and that they did.
Turner had a 7.4 average in the game with 140 yards on 19 carries, including a long 55-yard rush.
The Browns came into Sunday banged up on offense and left even more damaged.
Quarterback Seneca Wallace was thrust into the starting role early in the year when Jake Delhomme went down with an ankle injury and had success in this game, going 11 for 15 for 139 yards and a touchdown.
Unfortunately for him and Cleveland, he was hurt on a hit by Atlanta defensive end John Abraham late in the first half and did not return.
Delhomme came in and threw two interceptions, completing 13 of 23 passes for just 97 yards. His mobility was extremely limited and he appeared to be in considerable pain in his time on the field.
Both quarterbacks were under constant pressure from an Atlanta pass rush that finished the game with three sacks.
Browns' running back Peyton Hillis played through a thigh injury, scoring a touchdown on a 19-yard pass from Wallace in the second quarter. He was, however, limping badly by the end of the game, finishing with 28 yards on 10 attempts against an Atlanta defense that is proving to be very stout against the run.
Of some concern for the Falcons is that they had a special teams breakdown for the third week in a row.
In Week 3 against New Orleans they allowed a long punt return early in the game, last week facing San Francisco they had a punt blocked that resulted in a touchdown and this week Cleveland blocked a field goal attempt in the second quarter.
Atlanta has overcome these mistakes to win all three games, but there is no doubt that the team would like to make sure these errors do not happen again.
The Falcons sit atop an NFC South division that is shaping up to be on the best in the league with New Orleans and Tampa Bay, who on their way to winning seasons as well.
The Browns have another tough task in Week 6 as they visit Pittsburgh.
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