Monday, October 15, 2012 9:53 am
Falcons still unbeaten after edging Raiders 23-20
By PAUL NEWBERRYAP Sports Writer
He's already looking forward to his return to Philadelphia.
Samuel brought back 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, lifting unbeaten Atlanta to a sloppy 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
As far as Samuel was concerned, it was a thing of beauty.
Especially his pick.
"You might go for your breakfast, you might go for your lunch," he said. "But when you go for that dinner, you know deuce-deuce (22, his uniform number) has got to step up."
Overcoming three interceptions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons (6-0) extended the best start in franchise history and became the NFL's only unbeaten team when Houston lost to Green Bay. But they'll have plenty to work on during their bye week.
"Even when you win, there's still a long laundry list of things you've got to do better," coach Mike Smith said.
The Falcons' next game is Oct. 28 at Philadelphia, where they'll face former Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick and Samuel will get a chance to go against the team he played for the last four seasons. He was traded to the Falcons during the offseason.
"They love me," Samuel quipped. "They're going to scream when I come out of that tunnel. Philly, y'all better scream when I come out of that tunnel!"
The pesky Raiders (1-4) 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.
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.
"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, again, he came through with the game on the line.
"We've been in these situations before," Ryan said. "We know what we need to do."
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. Joselio Hanson picked one off over the middle. Michael Huff snatched another away on a deep throw. And Tyvon Branch grabbed a fluttering ball after Ryan was hit as he threw.
The Raiders seized on Branch's 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.
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 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. Jason Snelling was thrown for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from inside the 1, forcing Atlanta to settle for Bryant's 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 13.
NOTES: 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 carrries. ... One week after making 13 catches against the Redskins, Gonzalez was held to four receptions for 42 yards.
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