The New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons capped off the last NFL Sunday of the month on Sept. 29. When the Patriots eventually opened up a 30-13 lead, it looked like an anticlimactic finish, as those who passed up the game to watch the Breaking Bad finale missed little. But once that finale ended, the Falcons nearly forged an even more furious finish, until they reverted to old habits and went down by 30-23 anyway.
The Patriots had a 17-point lead halfway through the fourth, which didn’t make them too worried when the Falcons got a touchdown. But when Atlanta recovered the onside kick and got into the red zone, there was real cause for concern. However, the Falcons couldn’t get into the end zone and had to settle for a field goal, then failed to recover a second onside kick.
All Tom Brady needed was one first down to finish things off. Yet when Bill Belichick made one of his customary fourth-down gambles, Brady fumbled the snap and gave the Falcons one more chance. Once Matt Ryan completed a bomb to Julio Jones and got Atlanta back in the red zone, overtime appeared imminent.
But just like in last year’s NFC title game and this year’s opener in New Orleans, Atlanta couldn’t punch the ball in at the last minute. Although New England stumbled, it ultimately made the stand it needed to get the statement win it had lacked this season. Nevertheless, beating a now 1-3 Falcons club might not mean as much as it would have a month ago.
Regardless, the finish made the Patriots-Falcons showdown the game of the day, even if Atlanta’s comeback fell short. Here is a list of the best and worst games of Week 5 on Sept. 29, which included a few surprises, some more unbeaten teams getting tested, and a few more embarrassments for the worst of the worst.
Patriots stay perfect
No. 1: New England Patriots 30, Atlanta Falcons 23
The Patriots did what so many road teams couldn’t in the Georgia Dome in the regular season over the years. Winning in Atlanta wasn’t easy in the final moments, but as the Patriots have been learning this month, a win is a win no matter how hard they wound up making it. However, the 1-3 Falcons haven’t even been that lucky.
No. 2: Seattle Seahawks 23, Houston Texans 20 (overtime)
There was no way the Seahawks should have stayed perfect, given their 20-3 deficit and how their powerful defense was steamrolled for almost three quarters. But a Richard Sherman touchdown off a poor Matt Schaub throw forced overtime, and a controversial penalty put the Seahawks in range to win and escape.
No. 3: Minnesota Vikings 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 27
London seemed to be unlucky in hosting a game between two winless and supremely disappointing teams. Yet the Vikings and Steelers still put on a big show, as Adrian Peterson got off a long touchdown run and Ben Roethlisberger drove the Steelers to the goal line with a chance to tie. But as per usual lately, the Steelers shot themselves in the foot as Roethlisberger got sacked and lost the ball on third-and-goal.
No. 4: Detroit Lions 40, Chicago Bears 32
Reggie Bush and the Lions looked like they would score 60 points on the Bears, although they settled for just 27 in the second quarter. Chicago made it close at the end, but Detroit was otherwise in control in knocking the Bears from the ranks of the unbeaten — and knocking them from first place.
Peyton still flawless
No. 5: Denver Broncos 52, Philadelphia Eagles 20
The Broncos were nice enough to let the Eagles keep pace with them for a half. Predictably, the Eagles’ defense couldn’t hang on for 30 more minutes, as the Broncos finished September with 179 points and Peyton Manning finished with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.
No. 6: San Diego Chargers 30, Dallas Cowboys 21
The Cowboys had control for the first half, only to let the Chargers storm back in the second with 20 straight points. The win boosted San Diego to 2-0 against the NFC East, while Dallas still maintained sole possession of first place with a 2-2 record.
No. 7: Buffalo Bills 23, Baltimore Ravens 20
The Ravens had a big statement win over the Texans on Sept. 22, but seemed to have nothing left over for the Bills. Five Joe Flacco interceptions canceled out two from E.J. Manuel, as the rookie still got the Bills back to .500.
No. 8: Cleveland Browns 17, Cincinnati Bengals 6
Like the Ravens, the Bengals wasted all their energy on a statement victory last week and had nothing left over for this week. In this case, the Bengals only scored six points against the seemingly lowly, tanking Browns after winning a shootout over the Green Bay Packers. Now all of a sudden, Brian Hoyer has forced the Browns into a tie for first with the Bengals and Ravens at 2-2.
No. 9: Arizona Cardinals 13, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 10
Mike Glennon’s first start began well enough for the Buccaneers. However, just as Tampa Bay blew leads at the end of the Josh Freeman, it kicked off the Glennon era by yielding a 10-0 advantage. Glennon himself threw the interception that led to the Cardinals’ tying touchdown, then threw one more after Jay Feely gave the Cardinals a late lead.
Griffin finally wins
No. 10: Washington Redskins 24, Oakland Raiders 14
With the Redskins facing an early 14-3 deficit and a potential death blow to this season, Washington finally woke up. A David Amerson interception return for a touchdown, seven sacks on new Raiders starter Matt Flynn, and a go-ahead Robert Griffin III touchdown pass put the Redskins back in the win column.
No. 11: Tennessee Titans 38, New York Jets 13
Jake Locker has led the Titans to a surprising 3-1 start, and kicked off a blowout victory over the Jets. But he couldn’t finish it, as Locker suffered a hard hit that could keep him out for a few weeks.
No. 12: Kansas City Chiefs 31, New York Giants 7
It took a while for the Chiefs to blow the Giants out. Yet once Dexter McCluster ran back a punt 89 yards for a touchdown, the Giants and their now typically sloppy offense had no chance to keep pace. Now the formerly 2-14 Chiefs are 4-0 — and 3-0 against Andy Reid’s old NFC East — while the former Super Bowl champion Giants are 0-4.
No. 13: Indianapolis Colts 37, Jacksonville Jaguars 3
The Jaguars actually ended the first quarter with a 3-0 lead, then reality set right back in. 37 Indianapolis points later, the Colts had sole possession of the AFC South lead, while the Jaguars tightened their stranglehold as the NFL’s very worst team.