Coo’s 41-yd FG in OT puts the Falcons on top of the NFC South at .500

ATLANTA — They ran up the flanks and surrounded Young Goo. After a wild, somewhat improbable game Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the reliable Atlanta Falcons kicker did what made him one of the NFL’s highest-paid kickers.

Win the games.

He hit a 41-yard field goal in overtime to give Atlanta a 37-34 win over the Carolina Panthers, helping the franchise take a one-game lead in the NFC South, where the Falcons are only .500. All others are below.

In this game, the Falcons won it, then lost it, then won it again. twice.

In regulation, Atlanta led by six points after a Goo field goal with 36 seconds left to make the score 34-28. Then a 62-yard Hail Mary touchdown from the Carolina quarterback BJ Walker to the recipient DJ Moore With 12 seconds left, the Panthers got the go-ahead.

But Moore removed his helmet, leading to an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that pushed the extra point attempt back 15 yards. Carolina kicker Eddie Pinero Missed a long attempt, keeping the score at 34-34 and sending the game into overtime.

In overtime, the Falcons got the ball, but then the quarterback Marcus Mariota An interception was thrown CJ Henderson It was returned 54 yards. The Panthers (2-6) were in easy field goal range for the win. But Pinero missed a 32-yard field goal, giving Atlanta (4-4) life back.

Nothing less than the unexpected is expected in this division this season.

Entering Week 8, there have only been two times in the four-division era — which began in 2002 — when no team in the division was .500 or higher: the 2020 NFC East and the 2015 AFC South. With the Falcons at .500, that’s not an issue for the NFC South.

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Atlanta is in first place in the division despite not being over .500 at any point this season. It’s the last time the Falcons have been in first place in the division since 2016, the last time the franchise went to the Super Bowl.

It’s a far cry from Week 1, when the Falcons blew a 16-point lead in the second half and head coach Arthur Smith held a fiery news conference in which he talked about writing off and “burying” his team before the season started.

Smith then said, “We don’t care. “We’ll get back to work.”

The Falcons, since then, have continued to show their faith in their second-year head coach. Until last Sunday against Cincinnati, the Falcons had competed in every game they played, despite having the most dead cap money in the NFL — more than $80 million, according to the Roster Management System — and more than $9 million in cap room left on the roster.

The Falcons have changed nearly their entire roster since Smith and the general manager era Terry Fontenot Take over in January 2021, including firing franchise icons: quarterback Matt Ryan (traded to Indianapolis in March) and receiver Julius Jones (Traded to Tennessee in 2021).

Yet for now, they’re in first place in one of the NFL’s most interesting divisions, where every team is within the top two games of the division.

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