On Sunday afternoon, the Georgia Dome was tense and the Atlanta Falcons were on the verge of choking away a huge lead. Another disappointing exit from the playoffs looked to be in Atlanta’s future until a pair of Matts saved the day, and the season, for the Falcons. With the team down one and just about 30 seconds left, Matt Ryan completed two huge passes to get the Falcons into field-goal range for kicker Matt Bryant. As Bryant was about to approach the go-ahead field goal, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll called timeout to ice Bryant and make the pressure build a little bit. The strategy backfired. As the field goal that didn’t count sailed wide right, Bryant was given a “do-over,” and he didn’t miss the second time, not when it counted. Bryant’s kick sailed right through the uprights and the Falcons won their first playoff game avoiding yet another gut-wrenching loss.
Matt Bryant joined WCNN in Atlanta with the Rude Awakening to talk about what was going through his head before his game-winning kick, whether he thought the Falcons were going to run another offensive play with 13 seconds left before attempting the final field goal, if he looks for practice kicks at the end of games with how often opposing coaches call timeouts to ice the kicker, what he makes of the strategy to call timeouts before kicks, whether he was rattled after missing the “practice” kick and the difference in pressure when it comes to game-winning kicks in the playoffs versus the regular season.
What was going through his head before the final kick:
“Even leading up to that point, whenever they scored the touchdown I walked up and down the sidelines for everybody and I reminded everybody, ‘Listen guys, we have been here before.’ I told all the O-line, Matt, the receivers and everybody we have been here before. Going out there, I just reminded myself, ‘Keep your head down and get through the ball. Down and through, down and through.’”
If he thought the Falcons were going to call another offensive play before trying for the field goal attempt:
“I didn’t know. I’m just over there in the net, kicking in the net and whenever they say it’s time to go, then it is time to go. I don’t think about much else.”
If he’s looking for a practice kick at the ends of games with how often opposing coaches call timeouts to ice the kicker:
“I’m looking to make that kick. You don’t know if they’re going to call a timeout or not. It seems like they do it all the time, but you can’t count on that.”
What he makes of opposing coaches calling timeouts right before kicks:
“For me, all I see are positives as far as calling timeout because we are creatures of habit. If you make the kick, then you just try to repeat that motion and that feeling. If you miss the kick, then you get a chance to think about what just happened, make the correction and then go from there. As far as whether they should keep on doing it or not, that’s all a coach’s decision.”
If he was rattled after missing the practice kick:
“No, because to me I messed up a little bit on my approach to it as far as on my steps, and the kick wasn’t really a true kick. I was all out of whack. They called a timeout really early and I think all of us — well, mainly me, which I shouldn’t have — kind of let up a little bit, so it wasn’t really a true kick, so to speak, in my head. Whenever it didn’t go in it was like, ‘That doesn’t count.’”
How different the pressure is on a game-winning kick in the playoffs versus the regular season:
“I’ve tried to approach every kick the same way — the nerves, the emotion and everything else, it’s definitely there leading up to the game. For kickers, I think you have to be able to manage the situation, and once you step out across those white lines it’s kind of like a twilight zone and you go to a different place. You go somewhere else. It’s kind of like Happy Gilmore, you just try to go to a happy place.”
What he thinks happened with the squib kick at the end of the game:
“I haven’t seen it. (Host: Well you’ve seen it since.) No I haven’t. I heard about it and I don’t know and, to be honest, it’s not fair for me to comment because I don’t know what was said and I didn’t see it. You know what? I take that back. I saw it hit the guy’s leg.”