Falcons running back Steven Jackson scores a touchdown Sunday against the Bills. Atlanta snapped a five-game losing streak with the win but will be on the road again Sunday against Green Bay. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons snapped their five-game losing streak by battling against Buffalo.
They could have folded up shop a couple of times, after trailing 14-0 early and 31-24 late, but they kept fighting and pulled out the win in overtime. The Falcons know they’ll need the same type of effort when they face the Green Bay Packers, with or without Aaron Rodgers.
“We finished strong (against Buffalo) and we want to finish strong in the fourth quarter of the season,” coach Mike Smith said.
The Falcons needed two late fumbles by Buffalo to pull off the rally.
Near the end of regulation, defensive back Robert McClain punched a ball out from wide receiver Stevie Johnson and in overtime William Moore knocked the ball from tight end Scott Chandler. The Falcons recovered both fumbles, with the latter setting up the game-winning field-goal drive.
“I like the way we took the ball away there at the end of the game,” Smith said. “Those two turnovers were critical.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan kept battling even though he was sacked six times and hit nine times.
“You just have to keep going,” Ryan said. “That’s one of those things. You just have to keep battling. You have to keep plugging away. (Buffalo) is one of the best front sevens in the league. Obviously they lead the league in sacks and up until this game led the league in interceptions as well. They’re a talented bunch. We knew that coming into it. I thought our guys kept battling, regardless of what happened with the sacks.”
The Falcons felt comfortable playing inside the Rogers Centre, a domed stadium when they could have been playing outdoors in the frigid cold of Orchard Park, N.Y.
“You know, I’m not going to hide the fact that we’re a Dome team and it feels a little bit better when you’re inside,” tight end Tony Gonzalez said.
He’d like to see the team carry this same swagger to face the Packers.
“I’m all about the attitude, the way we approached it,” Gonzalez said. “Obviously, this season didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but we still have four games left after this, and if we go out there and fight we’ll be fine.”
McClain, who had a tough day, was elated that he came up with a big play at the end.
“It’s big,” McClain said. “As a whole defensive unit, we take pride in our jobs, we take pride in what we put up on the board, we take pride in our stats, we take pride in winning.”
The Falcons were also able to lean on their rushing attack, which could be important outdoors in Green Bay.
“I’m definitely in my rhythm,” running back Steven Jackson said. “(Dirk) Koetter is allowing me to get multiple touches, he’s allowing me to stay in the rhythm of the game, and that’s when I feel at home, that’s when I feel that I’m at my best.
“The offensive line is doing a good job of giving me some push, giving me some options, and once they do that, I have to take advantage of it. Every run is not going to be a big run, but my style of play, I play with authority. Authoritative runs. So it will wear down the defense, which allows for the other guys to come in and get a change of pace as well.”