The Atlanta Falcons-Baltimore Ravens game ended in exciting fashion Thursday night, possibly showing that the NFC does indeed have a favorite emerging from the rubble. This is the conference that is still home to the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, but 2010 has not been a great season for teams to emerge as the favorites to make it to the next big game. With an impressive last-minute victory over possible the best team in the AFC though, the Atlanta Falcons may have just staked a claim on the mantle as the best team in the NFC.
Both Baltimore and Atlanta came into Thursday night’s game with a 6-2 record, tied for the best in the NFL this season. It presented just the type of game that the NFL Network wanted in order to showcase its Thursday night coverage, and boy did they get a great game to start the second half of the season. With Baltimore and Atlanta both on the field, the potential does exist that this could be a preview of the 2011 Super Bowl in Dallas. If the game does end up being between these two teams, analysts will have a field-day looking back on the Nov. 11 game, and how it could have gone either way.
The Ravens were winning the game 21-19 with less than a minute to go in regulation. With just 20 seconds left on the clock, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan connected with Roddy White on a 33-yard touchdown strike that would put Atlanta up 26-21. That’s how the score would end, capping an impressive comeback by the Falcons and rejuvenating a fan base that was about to be very frustrated about how the game had gone. At one point, Atlanta had taken a 13=point lead in the game, but the defense squandered it, giving Baltimore the chance to finish them off in the fourth quarter.
Maybe the most surprising fact to emerge from Thursday night was that it was the Ravens defense that cost them in the end. All the Ravens had to do was stifle Ryan and force the Falcons into a deep field goal to try to win the game. Instead, they revealed a hole in their secondary, and suddenly it was Roddy White emerging as the player of the game. With the win, Atlanta moves to 7-2 at the top of the NFC and Baltimore again drops a game that could have cemented their stay at the top of the NFL. It is quite clear now that Atlanta could be on a mission that leads them straight to Super Bowl 2011.