ATLANTA — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have plenty of mistakes to work on during their bye week.
Of course, it's sure easier to fix the problems when you're still unbeaten.
Asante Samuel returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown in the closing minutes and Matt Bryant connected on a 55-yard field goal with 1 second remaining, allowing the Falcons to escape with a sloppy 23-20 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
Overcoming three interceptions by Matt Ryan, the Falcons (6-0) extended the best start in franchise history.
It wasn't easy against the pesky Raiders (1-4), who bounced back from Samuel's pick to tie the game with less than a minute to go, but left a little too much time on the clock for Atlanta's final possession.
Ryan completed four short passes, the last of them a 13-yarder to Tony Gonzalez that got Bryant in range for his longest field goal since joining the Falcons in 2009 — and his second game-winning kick in three weeks. He beat the Panthers 30-28 on a 40-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.
"He knows how to get himself prepared, how to calm himself down, how to get it through those pipes," Ryan said. "He's made a lot of clutch kicks for us through the years."
Bryant actually missed one early, pulling a 43-yarder wide left to break a streak of 23 consecutive field goals going back to last season. He bounced back to connect from 41 and 20 yards before making the one that really mattered.
"Missing that one early kind of woke me up a little bit to focus even harder," Bryant said.
After a mostly ugly game, the final 3 minutes were thrilling. Tied at 13, the Raiders were in position for a go-ahead field goal when Samuel stepped in front of Carson Palmer's pass at the Atlanta 21 and returned it for a touchdown, racing to the end zone right in front of the Falcons' bench.
Palmer shook off that huge mistake, leading the Raiders down the field for the tying score. He connected with Derek Hagan on a 38-yard pass to the Atlanta 5, and Darren McFadden scored on a 2-yard run with 40 seconds left.
Just enough time for the Falcons, it turned out.
"You don't want to tell your back to take a knee," Raiders rookie coach Dennis Allen said. "We wanted to use up as much time as we possibly could, and unfortunately we gave them a little bit too much."
Ryan finished 24 of 37 for 249 yards and equaled his career high for picks, matching the three he had against New Orleans in 2009.
But he was cool as can be with the game on the line.
"We've been in these situations before," Ryan said. "We know what we need to do."
Palmer was 23 of 33 for 353 yards, putting up much better rating than Ryan. But the Raiders quarterback was kicking himself for that one devastating play: the pick by Samuel.
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