By D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution –
ATLANTA — Matt Bryant booted a 55-yard field goal with one second left to lift the Falcons to a 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
On a day when the Falcons’ high-octane offense was running on fumes, the defense tried to bail them out.
With the score tied and the Raiders within field goal range, cornerback Asante Samuel stepped in front of a Carson Palmer pass that was intended for wide receiver Denarius Moore and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown with 2:40 to play.
The Raiders scored on a touchdown run by Darren McFadden to make it 20-20 with 40 seconds to left.
Ryan promptly drove the Falcons into field goal range for Bryant.
The Falcons improved to 6-0. The Raiders dropped to 1-4.
With Ryan misfiring at an alarming rate, the Falcons trailed the Raiders 13-7 at the halftime.
For Ryan, who had thrown three interceptions over the first five games, it was his worst half of the season. He tossed three interceptions in the first half against the Raiders.
The Raiders turned those three picks into 10 points.
On the fourth play of the game during the Falcons’ opening drive, Ryan tried to connect with wide receiver Harry Douglas on a crossing route, but Oakland cornerback Joselio Hanson cut underneath the route to pick off the pass.
After the Falcons stopped the Raiders, Bryant missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. It was his first miss of the season.
The Falcons forced the Raiders to punt, but Ryan tossed his second interception on a deep pass intended for Julio Jones. Mike Huff intercepted the ball at Oakland’s 2-yard line.
The Raiders quickly got from the shadows of their goal posts when quarterback Carson Palmer connected with wide receiver Denarius Moore on a 49-yard pass play. The drive stalled and Sebastian Janikowski made a 52-yard field goal.
On the Falcons ensuing possession, Ryan got hot. He completed 7 of 7 passes on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. He capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Roddy White to make it 7-3.
Janikowski made a 22-yard field to make it 7-6 with 4:15 left in the second quarter.
Philip Wheeler forced Ryan’s third interception. Wheeler blitzed untouched up the middle. When he slammed into the Ryan, the pass fluttered out and Oakland safety Tyvon Branch came down with it at Atlanta’s 28.
Two plays later, Palmer tossed a pass out in the flat to Moore, who slipped a high tackle attempt from linebacker Mike Peterson and raced in for a 25-yard touchdown to make it 13-7.
In their four previous games, the Raiders were outscored 55-7 in the third quarter. The Falcons were able to outscore them 6-0.
Bryant added field goals of 41 and 20 yards in the third quarter to tie the game 13-13.