Twenty-two points in the third quarter from the Cincinnati Bengals were not enough to overcome a 24-3 halftime deficit, as the Atlanta Falcons made the plays they needed to make in the fourth, winning 39-32.
A Roddy White fumble late in the third quarter was returned for a touchdown by Adam Jones, giving Cincinnati a 25-24 lead.
It looked as though the momentum of the game had completely shifted and the Falcons were on their way to a colossal collapse.
That was until White made up for his mistake, scoring a touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Matt Ryan, then coming down with a tough catch on the ensuing two-point conversion to give Atlanta a 32-25 lead they would not relinquish.
On the Bengals' next drive, running back Cedric Benson fumbled, Falcons corner Brian Williams recovered, and Atlanta was on its way to another scoring drive that would put them up 39-25.
Cincinnati scored once more, making it 39-32 but were unable to recover an onside kick and did not get the ball back until there were just 28 seconds left in the game with the ball on its 4-yard line.
Atlanta's John Abraham emphatically ended the game on the final play by sacking Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer for the second time.
White was the story of the game, racking up 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 11 catches. In the first half alone, he totaled 157 yards.
Ryan finished the day 24-of-33 passing for 299 yards and three touchdowns. His one interception came on a fine play by Bengals defensive back Leon Hall that saw him leap and catch an underthrown pass before it could find Falcons receiver Michael Jenkins.
Not to be outdone, Palmer threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns of his own, completing 36-of-50 pass attempts.
Cincinnati receivers Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens had 108 and 88 receiving yards, respectively, with rookie Jordan Shipley hauling in 131 yards of his own, most of which came on a long 64-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.
Owens and Ochocinco also found the end zone one time each.
Falcons running back Michael Turner had 121 rushing yards on 23 carries, scoring two touchdowns. He appears to be regaining his 2008 form, breaking off some long runs and wearing down defenses.
While it would have been nice for the Falcons to keep the game from getting so close, it should be noted that Cincinnati's three third-quarter touchdowns came in a span of about three minutes, with one of them coming on, more or less, a fluke play on White's fumble.
The Bengals had to feel as though their season was on the line and played with the kind of desperation you would expect from a team in that situation.
Atlanta showed resolve, not panicking in the fourth quarter. The team knew it had just taken the Bengals' best shot and was also sure that Cincy's D could not stop them.
The game will give the team some things to work on in their upcoming bye week as they prepare to take on Tampa Bay in Week 9.
The win moves the Falcons to 5-2, where they sit atop the NFC South, firmly in control of their destiny and possibly heading toward a No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
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