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Sunday's NFL: Falcons blow another big lead, this time to Nick Foles and Bears

Associated Press

Atlanta — No matter how bad things might have seemed a week ago, the Atlanta Falcons somehow managed to make it even worse.

Yep, another epic fourth-quarter collapse.

This one could spell the end for embattled coach Dan Quinn, who already carried the burden of the biggest squandered lead in Super Bowl history.

The Falcons surrendered a 16-point advantage in the final 6½ minutes to the Chicago Bears, who got three touchdown passes from backup quarterback Nick Foles and pulled out a 30-26 win on Sunday.

Falcons defensive back Darqueze Dennard (34) tries to bat a pass away from Bears wide receiver Ted Ginn (19) during the first half.

It would have seemed downright improbable — if it hadn’t happened for the second week in a row.

Atlanta (0-3) became the first team in NFL history to lose back-to-back games in which it led by 15 or more points in the final period, according to STATS.

“These last two weeks have been nothing short of crushing,” said Quinn, the sixth-year coach who desperately needed a strong start to the season after two straight losing campaigns.

A week ago, Atlanta became a national laughingstock after failing to pounce on an onside kick, allowing the Dallas Cowboys to finish off their comeback from a 39-24 deficit to win 40-39 on a field goal as time expired.

“It doesn’t get no worse than this,” defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. said. “We probably found the two worst ways you can lose a football game.”

Under Quinn, the Falcons also wasted a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl after the 2016 season and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots.

Quinn faced questions about his job security after the latest debacle. He insisted that he’s only focused on turning things around.

“I need to be the same guy on our best days and on our worst days,” Quinn said. “Anything past that does not help the team. All I can focus on is us finishing better. That’s where my focus needs to be.”

This time, it was Foles who guided the improbable comeback after relieving erratic Mitchell Trubisky in the third quarter, pushing the Bears to 3-0 for the first time since 2013.

The former Super Bowl MVP won it with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Miller with 1:53 remaining.

“Pretty special,” said tight end Jimmy Graham, who had a pair of touchdown caches. “He was out there ad-libbing a bit for sure and checking and changing some plays. There’s one play he called, I’m like, ‘We got that?’ So it was pretty cool to see and pretty cool to be a part of.”

Foles had two apparent touchdown passes overturned by official reviews – and still managed to pull out the victory.

He tossed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Graham to make it 26-16 with 6:20 to go. The Falcons still appeared in good shape after the Bears failed on a 2-point attempt.

But Chicago got the ball back and moved quickly down the field. Foles connected with Allen Robinson on a short pass that turned into a 37-yard touchdown when Isaiah Oliver and Blidi Wreh-Wilson both missed tackles, allowing the receiver to scoot down the sideline.

After the Falcons went three-and-out on their third straight possession, Foles heaved one down the middle of the field with a rusher in his face. Miller hauled it in for the winning score.

The Falcons still had a shot, but Matt Ryan was intercepted by Tashaun Gipson to seal it.

Foles finished 16 of 29 for 188 yards. Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, was 13 of 22 for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He was sacked twice.

Brian Hill and Todd Gurley each ran for a touchdown and Ryan connected with Hayden Hurst on a short TD pass that helped stake the Falcons to their seemingly comfortable lead.

Of course, no lead is safe for the Falcons.

Especially with Foles recapturing some of the magic he had in guiding the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl title three seasons ago after replacing the injured Carson Wentz.

Foles spent one injury-plagued season in Jacksonville, then was acquired by the Bears to put some heat on the disappointing Trubisky.

Trubisky set up Chicago’s first touchdown with the second-longest run of his career, a 45-yarder after the Falcons abandoned the the entire middle of the field. He connected on Graham on a 2-yard scoring pass to pull the Bears within 16-10 at halftime.

But Foles got his chance after Trubisky threw an interception in the third quarter that led to a Falcons field goal, pushing the lead to 26-10.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” Trubisky said. “I just accepted the news. I had Nick’s back like he’s had mine. The situation sucked, but it was just the flow of the game and how it happened and coach made the decision that he felt was best for the team.”

More games

(At) Seattle 38, Dallas 31: DK Metcalf made up for a huge first-half blunder by catching a 29-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson with 1:47 remaining, and the Seahawks held off the Cowboys.

Wilson threw five touchdown passes, setting a record for most scoring passes in the first three games of a season with 14. Patrick Mahomes threw for 13 TDs in his MVP season of 2018. Wilson became the first QB to have at least four TD passes in each of the first three games.

Metcalf appeared to have a walk-in touchdown after hauling in a deep pass from Wilson late in the first quarter. But he was careless with the ball in the final few steps before the goal line, and Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs came up from behind and knocked the ball free. It went out of the end zone for a touchback.

But when Seattle needed a big play late, Wilson floated a pass into the end zone and allowed Metcalf to run underneath it for the deciding touchdown.

Wilson was 27 of 40 for 315 yards. His latest bit of fourth-quarter magic ruined Dak Prescott’s attempt at a second straight major comeback.

Dallas trailed 30-15 after Prescott fumbled on the first play of the second half and Wilson subsequently threw his fourth TD pass. But Prescott threw TD passes of 42 yards to Cedrick Wilson and 43 yards to Michael Gallup, and Greg Zuerlein’s 42-yard field goal with 4:03 left gave Dallas a 31-30 lead.

Prescott finished 37 of 57 for 472 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions.

(At) Buffalo 35, L.A. Rams 32: Josh Allen completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight Tyler Kroft with 15 seconds remaining, and the Bills survived to beat the Rams after squandering a 25-point lead.

The Rams (2-1) were poised to match the third-largest comeback in NFL regular season history after Jared Goff led the team to touchdowns on four straight drives, capped by Darrell Henderson’s 1-yard run with 4:30 remaining.

Allen responded by marching the Bills (3-0) on an 11-play, 75-yard drive, which was extended by a pass interference penalty against Darious Williams on fourth-and-7 from the Rams 12. Williams interfered with intended receiver Gabriel Davis at the 3.

One play later, Allen rolled to his left and lobbed a pass over a Rams defender. Kroft made a leaping catch and secured the ball before tumbling to the ground, his second TD of the game.

Allen finished with four touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard run. The third-year starter, however, contributed to the Rams’ comeback bid, with an interception and a lost fumble leading to Los Angeles touchdown drives.

Cincinnati 23, (at) Philadelphia 23: Joe Burrow tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Tee Higgins in regulation and Carson Wentz dove into the end zone for the tying score in the final minute as the Bengals and Eagles played to a tie.

Philadelphia’s Jake Elliott lined up for a 59-yard field goal with 19 seconds left in overtime, but a false start on Matt Pryor forced the Eagles to punt it away and play for the tie.

Both teams are 0-2-1.

Facing an 0-3 start for the first time since 1999, Wentz drove the Eagles 75 yards in the final three minutes. He barreled 9 yards on third-and-6 to the Bengals 19 and then ran in from 7 with a head-first dive into the end zone. Elliott’s extra point tied it with 21 seconds left.

Neither team could do anything in overtime.

Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick, calmly picked apart the secondary in the second half, completing 31 of 44 for 312 yards. He’s still seeking his first win since leading LSU to the national championship in January.

Wentz struggled again, tossing two more interceptions.

Tennessee 31, (at) Minnesota 30: Stephen Gostkowski made his career-high sixth field goal of game, a 55-yarder with 1:48 left that lifted the undefeated Titans past the Vikings.

Derrick Henry rushed for 119 yards and two third-quarter touchdowns for the Titans, who improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2008 after trailing for most of the game. Ryan Tannehill passed for 321 yards, guiding the Titans on a go-ahead drive in the fourth quarter or overtime for the sixth time in 16 games since becoming the starter.

The Titans are 12-4 behind Tannehill, including the playoffs, and they’re 15-0 when Henry hits the 100-yard mark.

Dalvin Cook rushed for a career-high 181 yards and a score for the Vikings, who are 0-3 for the first time since 2013. Kirk Cousins threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, hitting Kyle Rudolph for a one-handed, toe-tapping grab in the back of the end zone for a 30-25 lead with 10:22 left.

The depleted Vikings defense didn’t do enough to hold it, though, as Tannehill moved the Titans just close enough for Gostkowski to go to work. The last three of his makes were all from 50-plus yards.

The Vikings, who were outscored 37-13 in the first half over their first two games, had 464 yards by an offense that finally got going.

Tampa Bay 28, (at) Denver 10: Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and Shaq Barrett celebrated his homecoming with a pair of sacks, one for a safety, in the Buccaneers' 28-10 victory over the Broncos.

With his first road win for the Bucs (2-1), Brady evened his career record against the Broncos at 9-9 with just his fifth win in a dozen trips to Denver.

The Broncos (0-3) completed a second straight winless September under head coach Vic Fangio, who donned a face shield after getting fined $100,000 for failing to wear a mask last week.

Barrett, who led the league last year with 19½ sacks in his first season in Tampa, picked up his first sacks of this season in the city where he played from 2014-18 after starring at Colorado State.

His second sack of Jeff Driskel, who started in place of Drew Lock, came in the end zone for a safety that pushed the Bucs’ lead to 25-10.

With his full complement of receivers finally available, Brady looked like the methodical QB he was for two decades in New England, driving the Buccaneers to scores on four of five first-half possessions.

San Francisco 36, (at) N.Y. Giants 9: Nick Mullens threw for 343 yards and a touchdown to lead the 49ers to their second win at MetLife Stadium in as many weeks, this time over the error-prone and winless New York Giants.

Jerick McKinnon, Brandon Aiyuk and Jeff Wilson scored on runs on a nearly flawless day for the Niners (2-1), who stayed in West Virginia to prep for the game. Robbie Gould added three field goals for San Francisco, which last week beat the Jets 31-13 and denied Giants coach Joe Judge a chance for his first win this week.

The Niners had quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (ankle), defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas (knees) and running backs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman hurt against the Jets. They complained about the stadium’s new turf after the game, saying it was “sticky” and led to injuries.

The Niners’ play on Sunday made it a non-issue as Mullens hit 25 for 36 passes and finished with a rating of 108.9. San Francisco outgained New York 420-231, held the ball for 39:44 and forced three turnovers without giving the ball up.

(At) Pittsburgh 28, Houston 21: James Conner ran for 109 yards and the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter as the Steelers rallied past the Texans.

The Steelers improved to 3-0 for the first time in a decade by putting the clamps on the Texans (0-3) in the second half. Houston managed just 51 yards and two first downs after halftime as an early 11-point lead vanished.

Houston started with the same mark in 2018 and rallied to win the AFC South.

The game turned early in the fourth quarter when DeShaun Watson threw into double coverage deep in Pittsburgh territory with the Texans leading 21-20. Nickelback Mike Hilton picked it off. Pittsburgh put together a 12-play, 79-yard drive, with Conner covering the last 12 to give the Steelers the lead with 6:24 to go.

Pittsburgh’s defense then forced its third three-and-out of the second half and Conner did most of the rest as the Steelers chewed up the last 4:47 to ice it.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns in his franchise-record 221st appearance.

(At) New England 36, Las Vegas 20: Bill Belichick became the third coach in NFL history to reach 275 regular-season victories and Rex Burkhead scored three touchdowns to lead the Patriots past the Raiders.

Belichick joined George Halas (318) and Don Shula (328) as the only coaches to reach the milestone.

Sony Michel finished with nine carries for 117 yards. Burkhead had two rushing scores and an 11-yard TD reception.

Cam Newton was 17 of 28 passing for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Shilique Calhoun had two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a score.

The Patriots have won the last six meetings with the Raiders and improved to 47-9 in regular-season games following a loss. Raiders coach Jon Gruden dropped to 0-3 against Belichick.

Derek Carr finished 24 of 32 for 261 yards and a two TDs for Las Vegas. But he had two fumbles which led to a New England field goal and a late touchdown when he lost the ball in the end zone and it was recovered by Calhoun.

(At) Cleveland 34, Washington 20: Baker Mayfield threw two touchdown passes, Nick Chubb ran for two more and the Browns beat the Washington Football Team to move over .500 for the first time since 2014.

Washington lost rookie defensive end Chase Young to a groin injury.

With their second straight win under first-year coach Kevin Stefanski, the Browns are 2-1 for the first time since 2011. It’s also the first time they’ve had a winning record since Week 14 in 2014.

Young, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft, left in the second quarter with his injury.

Led by Myles Garrett, the Browns’ defense intercepted Dwayne Haskins three times.

Garrett’s strip sack and fumble recovery midway through the fourth effectively sealed Cleveland’s win.

Mayfield’s 3-yard TD pass to rookie tight end Harrison Bryant with 11:14 left helped the Browns shake off a horrid third quarter, when Washington (1-2) scored two TDs to take the lead.

Chubb finished with 108 yards on 19 carries.

(At) Indianapolis 36, N.Y. Jets 7: Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie each returned an interception for a touchdown, Indianapolis recorded its second safety in as many weeks and Philip Rivers added his 400th career TD pass as the Colts routed the Jets.

Rivers played like his old self, getting rid of the ball quickly while avoiding mistakes on a milestone day.

The 38-year-old was 17 of 21 with 217 yards and played his first turnover-free game since joining Indy (2-1). He became the sixth player in league history to throw 400 career TD passes and the sixth to top 60,000 yards.

And with the help of a suddenly high-scoring defense, Rivers & Co. made it look easy against the winless Jets. New York is 0-3 for the second consecutive season under coach Adam Gase.

Darnold was 17 of 27 with 168 yards, one TD and three interceptions.