After losing an astounding six straight games, the Atlanta Falcons picked up a huge win to keep their slim playoff hopes alive on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. With a 23-17 victory, Atlanta is now 7-7 and is the No.7 team in the NFC behind current wild card teams Seattle and Minnesota, both 9-5.
Tied 17-17 to begin the final quarter, Jacksonville was pinned back at their own 10-yard line and that’s when the Falcons defense woke up and slowed down Blake Bortles and Co. An incompletion followed by a Denard Robinson fumble and then a Phillip Wheeler sack forced a quick three-and-out. Wheeler forced a fumble on the play, but the Jaguars recovered.
Atlanta then added a 33-yard field goal from Shayne Graham, the Falcons moved ahead 20-17 and proceeded to play shut down defense Bortles and the Jacksonville offensive attack again.
Despite a nine-yard scramble by Bortles to start the next drive from their own 20-yard line, Atlanta stopped Jacksonville to force a three-and-out. Fill-in running back Denard Robinson fumbled the ball and luckily it was recovered by receiver Allen Hurns on the 16-yard line. A 10-yard pass to Robinson on third down wasn’t enough and the Jaguars punted.
A 14-play drive took nearly seven minutes off the clock and Graham connected on another field goal, this time for 46 yards out. This gave the Falcons a six-point lead with under two minutes left in the game.
Outside of a bobbled 30-yard grab by Marqise Lee on the next drive’s first second down, the Falcons allowed just one completion for seven yards on three other Bortles pass attempts. Lee’s catch was a thing of beauty as he basically bobbled the ball into his own hands before making the grab. At their own 41-yard line, Bortles was sacked by Adrian Clayborn forcing the Jags to use their final timeout with under a minute left. Two pass attempts deep fell incomplete and the rest was history.
“I love those scenarios where we have an opportunity to make some plays so that is where competition is at its strongest,” Falcons head coach Dan Quinn said via AtlantaFalcons.com. “We knew it was going all four downs in there and we had some other guys step up and go in. JD (Justin Durant) had to come out for a while and I thought (Nate) Stupar did a terrific job filling it for (Paul) Worrilow today.”
On the day, the Falcons didn’t allow Jacksonville to convert a single third down (0-8) as they won the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes.
Atlanta has two games remaining in the regular season, both at home against undefeated Carolina and last-place New Orleans. The team directly in front of them, Minnesota plays host to the New York Giants this week before traveling to Green Bay to end the year. Seattle who has the No. 6 spot, hosts St. Louis this Sunday before finishing off the regular season in Arizona.
It’s not over yet for the Falcons, but they have to win out and hope for a miracle to get into the postseason fun. Minnesota isn’t a lock to win both games listed above. It all starts against the Panthers this week as Atlanta has to get a victory over a team that throttled them 38-0 just two weeks ago.