It was hard to distinguish the more unlikely sight at the Georgia Dome: A 303-pound offensive lineman sprinting 50 yards down the field to make a game-saving play, or the fact his team actually won the game.
The Falcons were the grateful recipients of both events, using the combined hustle of wide receiver Roddy White and guard Harvey Dahl to pull out an unlikely 16-14 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday before 66,874 dazed fans.
This Atlanta team is 3-1, which came compliments of White's forced fumble and Dahl's late recovery, one player setting up the other. That led to a late drive and Matt Bryant's 43-yard field goal with two seconds left, the kicker's second game-winner in as many weeks.
The Falcons appeared headed for certain defeat when the 49ers' Nate Clements stepped in front of a Matt Ryan pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez near midfield. Clements took off up the sideline with Falcons wide receiver Roddy White in pursuit.
White dove at Clements with his right arm extended and knocked the ball out after a 39-yard chase.
"I knew he was going to try and score," White said. "I just kept telling myself, ‘Get there, just get there.'"
Enter the lumbering Dahl into this picture. The ball bounced to him while he had to fight off about four 49ers to get control of the fumble at the Atlanta 7. He didn't let go.
"I just kept on it," Dahl said. "I just put the G.I. Joe grip on it."
It was a ragged game for the Falcons' offense, but it had three timeouts and 82 seconds left to move up the field and overcome a 14-13 deficit, having started from a 14-0 hole.
Ryan and his receivers finally started to click, with the quarterback hitting on 6 of 9 passes to move the ball into field-goal range.
The drive had started with two incomplete passes. On third-and-10 from his 7, Ryan found Harry Douglas over the middle for a 17-yard gain. Ryan next hit White for a 13-yard gain and followed with a 4-yard completion to Brian Finneran.
On the next play, Ryan threw arguably his best pass of the day. He threw a 20-yard dart to White to move the ball to San Francisco's 39-yard line. After an incompletion, Ryan found White for an 8-yard gain to put the ball on San Francisco's 31.
On third-and-2, Ryan tossed a 5-yard pass to Gonzalez and the Falcons were in comfortable field-goal range at the 26. Two runs by Michael Turner netted a yard, but more importantly the ball was moved to the left hash mark for Bryant's kick.
San Francisco delayed the inevitable, preventing Bryant's kick with its final timeout. Now all that was left was for Bryant was to make the kick, and he came through again.
"I get to go back to the penthouse, at least for another week," Bryant said. "The bed is softer, the drinks are colder in the penthouse."
The victory was the Falcons' ninth straight at the Georgia Dome, and they improved to 15-3 under coach Mike Smith.
The embattled 49ers (0-4), who had fired their offensive coordinator and had veteran safety Michael Lewis quit last week, came out and jumped on the Falcons.
Aided by a 34-yard pass interference penalty on Atlanta's Dunta Robinson, the 49ers pieced together a 10-play, 88-yard touchdown drive on their first possession of the game. San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith tossed a short screen pass to Vernon Davis, who powered his way into the end zone from 12 yards out.
The Falcons' offense was stopped on its second possession and forced to punt. The 49ers flooded the middle of the protection, and Dominique Zeigler came free and blocked Michael Koenen's punt. Rookie Taylor Mays made an acrobatic recovery, getting both feet down, before tumbling over the end line. A stunned and silenced crowd watched as Joe Nedney's extra point made it 14-0.
From there, it was a slow crawl to victory for the Falcons.
The Falcons picked up an 8-yard touchdown catch by Douglas and a 37-yard field goal by Bryant in the second quarter. Bryant later made a 31-yarder in the third quarter to pull his team within 14-13.
"I really like the fight and the resolve of our team," the Falcons' Smith said.
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