(Sunday, October 3rd)
Final Score: Atlanta 16, San Francisco 14
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Matt Bryant scored the last nine points in the game, including a 43-yard field goal just before the final buzzer to give the Atlanta Falcons a 16-14 victory over the winless San Francisco 49ers in a defensive-minded Week 4 battle.
The 49ers were leading 14-13 when Nate Clements intercepted Matt Ryan with less than 90 seconds left in regulation. As Clements returned the pick down the left sideline, however, Falcons wide receiver Roddy White came from behind and stripped the football. The Falcons (3-1) recovered the fumble and took over at their own seven-yard line with 1:22 remaining and all three timeouts left.
"Unbelievable effort on Rodney's part," Ryan said of White's hustle. "I was frustrated when I threw the interception in that situation, and I was hustling back to try to keep the guy in play, and Rodney came out of nowhere and really made the play of the game."
Harry Douglas, who caught Ryan's only touchdown pass, made a 17-yard reception on 3rd-and-10 to move the chains, and White hauled in a 20-yarder over his shoulder a little later at the 49ers' 39.
Three plays later, Tony Gonzalez's five-yard grab moved the ball to the 26, and after two runs netted one yard, Bryant came on with seven seconds left and was true from 43 yards out to give the Falcons their first lead of the game, and the only one that mattered.
Ryan finished 26-of-43 for 273 yards, 104 of which went to White on his seven catches. Michael Turner was held to 50 yards on 16 carries for Atlanta, which has won three in a row since losing to Pittsburgh in overtime in the season opener.
Alex Smith completed 21-of-32 throws for 188 yards and a touchdown pass to Vernon Davis, but was intercepted twice in enemy territory to halt momentum for the 49ers (0-4), who have lost their opening four games for the first time since 2004.
The Falcons punted in Niners territory on their opening touch, and San Fran followed with a 10-play, 88-yard march to take the early lead.
The visitors converted a pair of third down tries and another on fourth, the latter coming when Smith got just enough on a sneak on 4th-and-1 from the Atlanta 13. On the next play, Davis caught a ball near the goal line, rolled over a defender and reached the ball over the goal line. The play was ruled down at the one, but replay confirmed the tight end scored a TD.
The 49ers went up 14-0 later in the quarter when Dominique Zeigler blocked Michael Koenen's punt. The ball caromed high into the air, and rookie Taylor Mays caught the pigskin in the back of the end zone, keeping his feet narrowly inbounds for his first score.
Atlanta finally got moving and cut its deficit in half when Douglas caught a ball in the flat and went in for an eight-yard touchdown to cap a 12-play, 71- yard drive two minutes into the second frame.
The hosts moved into the red zone a little later, but Takeo Spikes tipped a Ryan pass intended for Gonzalez and Shawntae Spencer was there for the interception at his own six.
Smith returned the favor by getting picked by Curtis Lofton at the Atlanta 33 with 1:13 left in the half. Atlanta managed a 37-yard Bryant field goal for a 14-10 game heading to the break.
Again the Niners' offense was stymied by a Smith interception in the third, as William Moore made the pick at the Atlanta 33 and returned it 13 yards. Turner ran for 27 yards on the next play, but a sack on third down shortly thereafter brought on Bryant for a 31-yard field goal at the 5:49 mark.
After a series of punts, the Niners took over at the own eight with 10:25 left in the game. They faced a trio of third downs in their own territory and moved the chains on each one, but an intentional grounding penalty on Smith on third down pushed the ball from the Atlanta 34 to the 44, forcing a punt.
Andy Lee pinned the hosts to back to their own eight with 3:40 remaining, and the Falcons gained two first downs before Clements stepped in front of Gonzalez's route over the middle and picked off Ryan's pass, leading to the dramatic fumble and Atlanta's game-winning drive.
"Those were the longest two minutes of my life," 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. "All we needed was a stop, then we could get the ball back and win the game. We had an opportunity. We got the pickoff. Unfortunately we lost it. We just didn't get it done."
Gonzalez had seven catches for 41 yards and became the first tight end in NFL history to eclipse 12,000 receiving yards in his career...It was the 49ers' first blocked punt for a touchdown since 1987...Parys Haralson had two sacks for the 49ers...San Francisco backup tight end Delanie Walker was carted off the field with an apparent leg injury suffered in the second quarter...The 49ers had new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson at the helm after firing Jimmy Raye on Monday...Frank Gore gained 77 yards on 21 carries and 60 yards on a team-high seven catches for San Fran...The Falcons held the 49ers to 262 total yards while gaining 357.
10/03 18:16:07 ET
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