Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Sports

Falcons 23, Raiders 20

ATLANTA — Matt Ryan and the Falcons have plenty of mistakes to work on during their bye this week.

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

Cornerback Asante Samuel returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown in the closing minutes and Matt Bryant hit a 55-yard field goal with 1 second remaining as the Falcons escaped with a sloppy 23-20 victory over the Raiders on Sunday.

Overcoming three interceptions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons extended the best start in franchise history to 6-0 and are the last unbeaten team left after Houston's loss Sunday night.

It wasn't easy. The Raiders bounced back from Samuel's pick to tie the score with less than a minute to go but left a little too much time on the clock.

Ryan completed four short passes, the last a 13-yarder to Tony Gonzalez that got ex-Buc Bryant in range for his longest field goal since joining the Falcons in 2009 — and his second winner 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 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 mattered most.

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

With the score tied at 13, the Raiders were in position for a go-ahead field goal when Samuel, a former UCF standout, stepped in front of Carson Palmer's pass at the Atlanta 21 and returned it for the touchdown, racing by in front of the Falcons' bench.

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

Palmer shook it off, leading Oakland downfield for the tying score. He hit 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 threw for 249 yards but equaled his career high for picks with three.

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