• ATLANTA FALCONS: Top 10 season-defining moments

    By: Wilton Jackson

    Updated:

    ATLANTA - Falcons lose first preseason game inside the newly, built Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Schaub (8) looses the ball during the first half of the preseason game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Arizona Cardinals at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
    Photo: Frank Mattia, Getty Images

    In the first-ever game inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the Falcons 24-14. The Cardinals recorded more yards of total offense than the Falcons (292-237) and first downs (18-13). Matt Ryan finished 4 of 11 for 36 yards and one interception in the game, kicking of the Falcons era in the newly built stadium. 

    Falcons defeat the Green Bay Packers in a rematch of the 2017 NFC championship game. 

    Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) breaks a tackle for a first down during the first half of the NFL game between the Green Bay Packers and the Atlanta Falcons on September 17, 2017, at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
    Photo: Frank Mattia, Getty Images

    Ryan threw for 252 yards and a touchdown, Devonta Freeman rushed for two touchdowns and the Falcons’ defense forced the Packers to commit two turnovers as Atlanta defeated Green Bay, 34-23, in a rematch of the 2017 NFC championship game. 

    Bills hand Falcons their first loss of the season. 

    Atlanta Falcons Mohamed Sanu (12) in action vs Buffalo Bills at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta, GA 10/1/2017
    Photo: Kevin Liles, Getty Images

    Buffalo Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka kicked a tiebreaking, 56-yard field goal and made one final defensive stand to defeat the Falcons 23-17. Ryan moved the Falcons down to the Bills 10-yard line. However, Ryan failed to complete a fourth-down pass to receiver Taylor Gabriel. In that game, Julio Jones went down with a hip flexor injury. Overall, the Falcons were the last NFC team to lose early in the season. 

    Falcons fail to avenge Super Bowl meltdown, lose to Patriots.

    Fog falls on the field during a game between the New England Patriots and the Atlanta Falcons at Gillette Stadium on October 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
    Photo: Adam Glanzman, Getty Images

    With a huge cloud of fog sitting over Gillette Stadium, the Falcons looked lost and it showed on the field. The Falcons trailed 23-0 before scoring in the final minutes of the game. Atlanta lost to New England, 23-7. The Falcons failed on their first five third-down conversions and finished 3 of 12 on third and fourth downs in the game. 

    Adrian Clayborn sets Falcons record for sacks, leads Falcons past Cowboys.

    Adrian Clayborn #99 of the Atlanta Falcons and Keanu Neal #22 tackle Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 12, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
    Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

    Falcons defensive end Adrian Clayborn recorded an Atlanta record six sacks on Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and forced a pair of fumbles to lead the Falcons over the Cowboys 27-7. Dallas was without starting left tackle Tyron Smith and Clayborn took advantage of it. Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes and eclipsed 40,000 career passing yards in fewer games than any other quarterback in NFL history. The Falcons’ win over the Cowboys started a series of critical wins they needed to keep and secure a playoff spot in the NFC.  

    Ryan leads Falcons in tough road victory over Seattle Seahawks.

    Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons rushes for a first down against the Seattle Seahawks during the third quarter of the game at CenturyLink Field on November 20, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.
    Photo: Steve Dykes, Getty Images

    The Falcons 34-31 victory over the Seahawks was a huge win for the Falcons, which put them only two games behind the division-leading New Orleans Saints.  Ryan, who never saw much pressure in the game thanks to an injury-depleted Seahawks defense, threw for 195 yards. Despite a fourth- quarter rally from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, the Falcons won their second straight game and handed Seattle its second consecutive loss at home. 

    Deion Jones gets game-winning interception to defeat Saints, keep playoff hopes alive.

    Deion Jones #45 of the Atlanta Falcons intercepts a touchdown pass intended for Willie Snead #83 of the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 7, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.
    Photo: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images

    Despite Ryan’s three interceptions in a stretch of nine plays, the Falcons managed to remain in the game, tie it at 17 and break the tie with a 52-yard field goal from Bryant. Then, with 1:25 to play in the game with Saints quarterback Drew Brees pushing New Orleans deep into the red zone, Jones made an interception to seal the victory for the Falcons, 20-17. 

    Falcons lose on road to Saints, put playoff chances in jeopardy. 

    Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons walks onto the field during a NFL game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 24, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
    Photo: Sean Gardner, Getty Images

    Two weeks after beating the Saints by a field goal and Jones interception to seal the victory, Atlanta committed numerous mistakes and failed to score in red zone situations as the Falcons lost to the Saints, 23-13. Atlanta finished with 10 penalties for 91 yards and 2 of 13 on third downs. Ryan finished with 288 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Running back Devonta Freeman lost a fumble, committed two critical penalties and failed on a fourth-down attempt. The loss put the Falcons in a win-or-go home season finale against the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Eve. 

    Falcons dominate Panthers in season finale, earn NFL Wild Card playoff spot.

    Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu (12) breaks a tackle during the NFL game between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons on December 31, 2017 at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. Falcons win 22-10.
    Photo: Frank Mattia, Getty Images

    On New Year’s Eve, the Falcons handled their business in the final game of the season, defeating the Panthers 22-10 to secure a Wild Card spot in the playoffs. Led by Freeman’s receptions, a strong defensive performance and five field goals from Bryant, the Falcons earned the sixth seed and a shot at the NFC West champion Los Angeles Rams, which entered the playoff’s as the league’s top scoring offense, averaging nearly 30 points per game. 

    Bryant, Ryan lead Falcons in upset over LA Rams in Wild Card weekend.

    Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) during the NFC Wild Card football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Los Angeles Rams on January 06, 2018 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA.
    Photo: Jordon Kelly, Getty Images

    Atlanta used playoff experience and solid defense as the Falcons defeated the Rams on the road, 26-13. Bryant scored 14 of Atlanta’s 26 points on four converted field goals and two extra points following touchdowns in the Falcons' victory.

    Ryan threw for 218 yards and a touchdown. Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 106 yards on the ground and one touchdown – by Freeman – in the game. The Falcons’ defense stepped up when it needed to, leaving the Rams 1 of 4 in red zone situations. The Rams also committed two turnovers in the game and lost both. With the win, the Falcons earned a trip to the NFC Divisional game against the Philadelphia Eagles, where they lost 15-10 at Lincoln Financial Field a week later. 

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