ATLANTA — Any trip to Louisiana on a weekend, especially to New Orleans, can involve a hangover for many visitors.
Usually, it’s gone in a day or two.
For Atlanta, it lingered a week, three quarters and about 14 minutes.
Everything Atlanta had in last week’s 27-24 overtime win at New Orleans apparently was left in the Superdome, except magic on a game-winning drive.
Matt Ryan followed a poor interception with a clutch game-winning drive as the sluggish Falcons pulled off a 16-14 win Sunday over San Francisco at the Georgia Dome.
The win over the Saints lingered.
“It was kind of knocked out of us,” Atlanta defensive end John Abraham said with a smile. “It was a tough game, and at first, we came out (Sunday) kind of sluggish. Five quarters is five quarters, and (New Orleans) was a five-quarter game.”
But Atlanta (3-1) survived.
Ryan underthrew Tony Gonzalez in the final 100 seconds and was picked off by Nate Clements at the 49.
Clements rambled down the left sideline with a convoy, except nobody accounted for Roddy White. The receiver caught Clements and knocked the ball loose, with Atlanta guard Harvey Dahl lumbering downfield and recovering the fumble.
“No bad talk about Clements, but I thought he should have got down,” Abraham said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, (if) he gets down, it’s over.’ Then I see Roddy, and ‘Oh!’ It shocked me”
But it was a 43-yard turn of events, backwards, and Atlanta had only 88 seconds to get into field goal range.
The Atlanta offense that had muddled all day suddenly started clicking. After, of course, two incompletions made it third and 10.
White made a superb catch on a bull’s eye pass from Ryan for 20 yards on second and 6 to get to San Francisco’s 41. Then Ryan hit Tony Gonzalez for 5 on third and 2, and then the Falcons ran the ball twice to set up Bryant’s 44-yard field goal with two seconds left, after the requisite place-kicker-freezing timeout.
“I just did an interview with a paper in New York, that the percentages were in a coach’s favor if they call timeout before a kick,” Bryant said. “I don’t know how accurate he is, but I’ve seemed to have good fortune, I guess.”
Atlanta was sluggish on both sides of the ball all afternoon.
A long list of Falcons Pro Bowlers — such as Warrick Dunn, Jessie Tuggle, Jeff Van Note and Steve Bartkowski — were introduced at halftime.
That didn’t help.
Roars when the scoreboard showed the Atlanta Braves leading Philadelphia didn’t springboard the Falcons, nor did the shot of Carolina beating New Orleans 14-10 late in the third quarter.
Stopping the 49ers on third down was a struggle, as was locating running back Frank Gore on almost any passing play. The 49ers threw some new looks at the Falcons with new offensive coordinator Mike Johnson taking over for Jimmy Raye, fired a week ago.
Cornerback Dunta Robinson said the 49ers were hungry, which combined with some unpredictability made it a tough defensive day.
“With them firing the offensive coordinator, we really didn’t know what to expect,” Robinson said. “A lot of underneath stuff. No big shots, just trying to work a lot of underneath stuff. We were bend but don’t break.”
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith, who entered the game ranked 28th in the NFL in efficiency and was 13-of-16 for 118 yards in the first half, fired a strike to Atlanta safety William Moore on the 10th play of the third quarter.
A few big plays and a 49ers penalty that nullified a loss kept a drive alive, but it stalled and the Falcons stalled again and got a 31-yard field goal from Bryant to pull within 14-13.
Smith completed his first eight passes, including six on the 49ers’ opening possession, which was a 10-play, 88-yard scoring drive. The 49ers then turned a blocked punt into a touchdown and 14-0 lead with 4:26 left in the first quarter.
By that point, Atlanta had run all of eight plays for 27 yards.
The Falcons’ next possession started with a sack of Ryan for a 5-yard loss, but Atlanta dug out of the hole — keyed by a 20-yard pass from Ryan to a diving White — and scored on Ryan’s 8-yard pass to Harry Douglas. The Falcons were back in the red zone when Ryan threw behind Gonzalez, and the pass was tipped by former Washington County standout Takeo Spikes to Shawntae Spencer on the 6.
Curtis Lofton got an interception off a tipped pass late in the half. A 44-yard pass from Ryan to Douglas put Atlanta in business at the 49ers’ 19. Ryan converted a third-and-1 to the 8, but the drive imploded after an intentional grounding and Atlanta settled for a half-ending field goal and a 14-10 deficit.
The Falcons spent the entire game trying to look remotely like they did on the final possession.
“We know that there’s going to be things that happen in our favor and we know that there’s things that are going to happen against us,” Atlanta head coach Mike Smith said. “It’s about those players. They have resolve.”