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The best wins of the Mike Smith era: Last second heroics against the Bears in 2008

When the Mike Smith era just made sense.

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons didn’t have a lot of iconic wins in the Mike Smith era, but they won a lot of games. Few were more important than the team’s sixth game of Smitty’s first season, which they won in truly thrilling fashion.

It’s easy to forget this now, but we were all trying to figure out how good Matt Ryan was at this point. Yours truly had been dead-set against the team drafting him, preferring they take Glenn Dorsey (oh no) or Jake Long instead if those options presented themselves. And while the Falcons were 3-2 at this point, cautious optimism still ruled the day, especially after a brutal 2007 season.

This game changed everything, I think. Let’s take a jog down memory lane.

Week 6, 2008 season, vs. Chicago Bears

The Falcons came into this week 3-2, the same record as the Bears. Atlanta needed to get off to a fast start against a solid team, and they kicked things off with a long drive that ended in a 29 yard Jason Elam field goal. 3-0.

The Bears couldn’t do much on their subsequent drive, giving Atlanta another bite at the apple, and they ground the clock almost all the way down to the end of the first quarter before Jason Elam hit another field goal. 6-0.

The Bears punted again, and then the Falcons drove down the field again and settled for a third consecutive Elam field goal. 9-0.

The Bears finally got on the board next with a Robbie Gould field goal to make it 9-3, and then the team traded punts before the Falcons got Elam back in range again, making it 12-3. You’d probably forgotten how reliable Elam was before the wheels fell off the next year, eh?

The Bears broke the touchdown drought on the next drive, with Devin Hester brutalizing Atlanta’s cornerbacks and Matt Forte punching in a three yard touchdown. That made it 12-10, Falcons.

The fourth quarter gave Atlanta another crack at extending their lead, and they took it, with a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Roddy White. That made it 19-10.

Things got a little wild from there, with punts back and forth, the Bears failing to convert a fourth and short, and one field goal by the Bears to make it 19-13 with 4:05 to go. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they couldn’t score, and Kyle Orton hit Rashied Davis for a 17 yard touchdown catch with just 17 seconds left.

What happened next makes this one iconic. Down 20-19 with barely any time left, the Falcons took advantage of a short kickoff from Gould to start from their own 44. Matt Ryan hit Michael Jenkins for an unreal 26 yard completion, leaving a single second on the clock, and Elam hit his fifth field goal of the game, a challenging 48 yarder, leading to a 22-20 win.

To win a game like this, when the circumstances seemed impossible, and what you have at your disposable is a rookie quarterback and an aging kicker, was and is a damned impressive achievement for a rookie head coach. I’ll always remember this game as the one where the Smith-era Falcons arrived.