By David Schiele
The Falcons didn’t earn their win over the Detroit Lions. In fact, Atlanta did everything they could to lose. Quarterback Matt Ryan threw three interceptions—two off the hands of his receivers and the other returned for a touchdown. Falcons defenders took poor tackling angles and missed chances to make key stops. Additionally, cornerback Desmond Trufant drew two bone-headed penalties, placing the Lions at the Falcons’ one-yard line with less than 30 seconds left in the game.
That’s when the NFL rulebook saved Atlanta from another fourth-quarter collapse.
With 12 seconds left, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with receiver Golden Tate on a quick slant near the goal line. Tate stretched into the end zone and appeared to have a game-winning touchdown with eight seconds left. Upon further review, cornerback Brian Poole had his right hand on Tate’s shoulder just before the veteran receiver crossed the goal line. The ruling on the field was changed, resulting in a 10-second run-off via NFL timing rules.
Here’s the official rule:
Rule 4, Section 7, Article 4: Replay review after the two-minute warning of either half. If a replay review after the two-minute warning of either half results in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not have stopped the game clock, then the officials will run 10 seconds off the game clock before permitting the ball to be put in play on the ready-for-play signal. The defense cannot decline the runoff, but either team can use a remaining timeout to prevent it.
The Lions were out of timeouts and the Falcons won, 30-26.
No Falcons player can be accredited for this victory, but a couple of players performed well. Running back Devonta Freeman rumbled through the Detroit defense for 106 yards and one touchdown. Freeman’s tag-team partner Tevin Coleman racked up 89 total yards, averaging nearly 10 yards per touch. All-star wide receiver Julio Jones added 91 yards on seven catches.
It’s noteworthy that Jones tweaked his back on the Falcons’ final offensive drive, however, Head Coach Dan Quinn does not believe the injury to be serious. Free Safety Ricardo Allen was also injured in the game and has entered the concussion protocol.
The Falcons’ priority will be making sure Jones and Allen are healthy as they return home to host the Buffalo Bills next week.