Rich Addicks Associated Press Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel (22), with Sean Weatherspoon leading the way, runs back an interception for a 79-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter Sunday.

Oakland steps up in bitter loss

Published: Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 7C
Last Modified: Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 - 7:15 am

ATLANTA – When Matt Bryant kicked a 55-yard field goal with one second remaining Sunday at the Georgia Dome to give the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons a 23-20 win over the Raiders, the overriding emotion was anguish.

The reason it hurt so much is that the Raiders, in one of the NFL's most difficult road venues, at least temporarily rectified a lot of previous issues and did it in a manner that suggested that it's too early to write off 2012 as destined for double-digit defeats in a rebuilding year.

And lost anyway.

"As far as leaving it on the field, I thought we did that," defensive tackle Richard Seymour said.

The final three minutes were a blur, beginning with a 79-yard interception return by Asante Samuel against Carson Palmer just as the Raiders were moving into position for a go-ahead score with the score 13-13.

When Samuel evaded Palmer's attempt at a tackle at the 10-yard line, the Falcons led 20-13 with 2:40 to play. Furious with himself but undaunted, Palmer drove the Raiders 80 yards in eight plays, a drive that included passes of 17, nine and 38 yards to Derek Hagan. When Darren McFadden scored on a two-yard run, only 40 seconds remained. Too much time, as it turned out.

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan, intercepted three times in the first half by a suddenly stout Oakland pass defense, took over at the 20-yard line and completed passes of seven and nine yards to Jacquizz Rodgers, four yards to Harry Douglas and finally 10- and 13-yard strikes to tight end Tony Gonzalez.

Atlanta called a timeout, and Oakland called time to freeze Bryant. Bryant missed the kick, although the whistle had already blown and he was simply taking a practice swing.

His next attempt split the uprights, and the Raiders had fallen hard to 1-4.

"This team doesn't have any quit in them," coach Dennis Allen said. "We don't take solace in the loss. We didn't put enough points on the board. There are no moral victories, but I'm proud of these guys."

Atlanta, despite being outgained 474-286 and outplayed in most areas, completed a four-game sweep of AFC West teams and enters its bye week at 6-0.

"We're very fortunate," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "They did a great job having their guys prepared. They were humming today."

The first half included the Raiders' first three interceptions of the season, by Joselio Hanson, Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch.

Oakland led 13-7, with Sebastian Janikowski kicking 52- and 22-yard field goals and Palmer hitting Denarius Moore with a 25-yard touchdown pass. The chip-shot field goal was problematic in that the Raiders had first and goal from the Atlanta 8 and failed to score a touchdown even after McFadden gained seven yards on first down to the 1.

A Palmer incompletion and a three-yard McFadden loss caused Allen to bring Janikowski in to get three points out of a 76-yard, 10-play drive.

The Falcons had the only points of the third quarter on field goals of 41 and 20 yards.

Like Allen, the Raiders were careful not to proclaim any sort of "moral" victory, although it was clear the loss to the Falcons was in no way similar to road losses in Miami and Denver where Oakland was steamrolled in the second half.

"With (the Falcons) being the team they are this (season), it gives you some reassurance that you can play with any team in the league," linebacker Rolando McClain said.

"We don't take solace in the loss. We didn't put enough points on the board."

DENNIS ALLEN, Raiders coach

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