In the end, Matty Ice proved a little hotter than Joe Cool.
In the first battle of first-round quarterbacks from the 2008 draft, Matt Ryan outdueled Joe Flacco last night at the Georgia Dome, leading the Falcons to a wild last-minute, 26-21 win over the Ravens.
His controversial 33-touchdown pass to Roddy White with 20 seconds left came after a major comeback from the Ravens and completed a drive where the Falcons moved the ball 80 yards in 45 seconds. White was left wide open after cornerback Josh Wilson fell after making contact and essentially cruised into the end zone.
A visibly frustrated Wilson ran over to the official to plead his emotional case and slammed his fists into the ground when there was no flag for offensive pass interference.
"I just asked him if anything happened. He didn't say nothing," Wilson said.
The Ravens had one final shot and needed to go 91 yards with 16 seconds left. But the game ended when Flacco competed a short pass as the clock expired to T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who looked to lateral the ball to keep the play alive but fumbled the ball out of bounds.
It was a heartbreaking blow for the Ravens, who rallied from 13 points down in the fourth quarter on two touchdowns by Joe Flacco.
"It's a deveastating one. But it's not going to affect morale of this team," said tight end Todd Heap, who caught a 9-yard pass from Flacco in the fourth quarter.
The Ravens (6-3), who slipped a half-game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC North, lost for the first time since Oct. 17. The Falcons (7-2) won for the seventh time in eight games.
The highest-rated quarterback in the NFL for the past seven weeks, Flacco continued his torrid streak after being shut out in the first half and throwing an interception on his first pass of the second half.
Flacco finished 22-for-34 for 216 yards.
"We really came alive at the end of the game, but it wasn't enough. … You think it's your game to have, and you think it's kind of over, but it didn't work out that way," Flacco said.
Two of the Ravens' biggest problems — tackling in the secondary and their return game — once again hurt them in the second quarter.
Finishing off a marathon series, an uncovered Jason Snelling caught a short pass and ran to the Ravens' 5-yard line, where Ravens safety Dawan Landry desperately hung onto the running back's left foot. Snelling pulled away and dove across the goal line to put Atlanta ahead 7-0.
Snelling lined up out wide but just inside of the dangerous White. When Wilson followed White across the middle, Snelling ran free to the right flat.
The 14-play, 91-yard drive (which took 6 minutes, 38 seconds off the clock) marked the fourth 90-plus-yard possession against the Ravens, the most in a season in franchise history.
Long drives were the order of the night against the Ravens, who couldn't get the Falcons off the field. Atlanta was 8-for-12 (67 percent) on third downs in the first half. The Ravens entered the game with the seventh best third-down defense (40.7 percent).
After that touchdown, the Ravens did stop the Falcons on third down. But punt returner Lardarius Webb was stripped by Brian Finneran, giving Atlanta the ball at the Ravens' 43-yard line. It was just another knock against the Ravens' punt-return game, which is ranked last in the NFL.
The Ravens looked as if they had stopped the Falcons on third down to force a 46-yard field goal attempt. But linebacker Dannell Ellerbe was flagged for illegal contact for grabbing tight end Tony Gonzalez, which allowed Atlanta to continue the series.
The Falcons eventually settled for a 28-yard field goal from Matt Bryant to extend their lead to 10-0 with 17 seconds left in the second quarter.
Atlanta owned the time of possession, controlling the ball for 21 minutes, 14 seconds in the 30-minute first half.
The Ravens' defense got beaten up early. Ray Lewis sprained his foot on the first series of the game, but the middle linebacker returned on the next drive. Ed Reed, who had offseason hip surgery, writhed in pain when he dove at a sliding Ryan late in the second quarter.
Still, the Ravens' offense was doing some limping as well. It was the second time that the Ravens had been shut out in the first time (the last time was Week 2 at Cincinnati).
The Ravens' second half didn't start off much better. On third-and-15, Flacco was intercepted on his first second-half pass. Instead of throwing to a wide-open Anquan Boldin running down the middle, Flacco forced the ball to T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the outside. Falcons cornerback Brent Grimes had the inside positioning and made the easy interception.
That ended Flacco's streak of passes without an interception at 137, third best in Ravens history.
As if did after the Ravens' first turnover, Atlanta started in Ravens' territory and converted it into a field goal. Bryant's 51-yarder staked the Falcons to a 13-0 advantage early in the third quarter.
Flacco immediately rebounded with his best drive of the game, one that was extended by his 13-yard scramble on third-and-9. In the red zone, where the Ravens managed one touchdown in seven trips last Sunday, Flacco hit Todd Heap for a 13-yard pass and connected with Boldin for a five-yard touchdown pass.
Boldin's 50th career touchdown pulled the Ravens to within 13-7 in the third quarter.
Atlanta put together its third scoring drive of 10 plays or longer with some help from the Ravens. On third-and-10, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs was called for facemask even though his facemask was being grabbed by Snelling, too.
Three plays later, Ryan rolled to his left on third-and-1 and threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to lift the Falcons to a 20-7 lead.
Flacco once again responded by moving the Ravens down the field, completing 6 of 7 passes for 60 yards. His 6-yard touchdown toss to Derrick Mason cut the margin to 20-14 with 5:42 left in the fourth quarter.
Nov. 21, 1 p.m.
TV: Ch. 13
Radio: 1090AM, 97.9FM
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In the end, Matty Ice proved a little hotter than Joe Cool.