A 47-yard field goal by PK Matt Bryant with nine seconds left to play helped the Falcons to a 20-17 win over the Packers on Sunday. The battle between the two playoff contenders was tight from start to finish, but Atlanta never trailed and improved its record to 9-2.
On the Falcons' final drive, QB Matt Ryan completed four passes to three different receivers after Eric Weems' kickoff return and a costly facemask penalty on Packers LB Matt Wilhelm gave Atlanta 1st-and-10 from the Green Bay 49. It set up Bryant's game-winning kick.
"In that last 45 seconds Matt spread the ball around to a number of receivers," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said Monday. "Again, that shows that maturity that we're not just looking for one guy in those situations. We're going through our reads, going through the progressions and distributing the ball where it needs to be."
The Falcons have at least a one-game lead over every other NFC team for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and, with a manageable schedule that includes two games against the 1-10 Panthers, Smith has his team in an enviable spot.
The PFW spin
Ryan took what the Packers' defense gave him, dinking and dunking Green Bay to pick up first downs, and he was rewarded for that approach.
He didn't complete a pass of more than 21 yards, only had 197 yards passing and RB Michael Turner (23 carries for 110 yards) was able to take some pressure off him. But aside from a couple of first-half attempts where he overthrew a receiver, Ryan gave his receivers a chance to make a catch on every other pass.
He completed 24-of-28 attempts with one touchdown and went 14-of-15 in the second half. The lone incompletion in the final two quarters came on the play before Bryant kicked the game-winning field goal. Ryan couldn't find an open receiver as he rolled to the right, so he threw the ball out of bounds before Green Bay's pass rush was able to get to him.
The third-year quarterback showed great awareness and mobility by eluding the Packers' pass rushers when the pocket broke down on a few different occasions. He was able to buy himself extra time and kept picking up yards, little by little.
Ryan is now 19-1 in his 20 starts at the Georgia Dome since he was drafted in 2008, and the Falcons look like a team that's going to be tough to beat no matter where it plays if it advances to the postseason for the second time in three seasons and stays relatively healthy.