Falcons rally to get past bruised & battered Browns

Published 2:01 am Monday, October 11, 2010

CLEVELAND — Kroy Biermann needed oxygen.

Knocking the air out of the Cleveland Browns left him winded.

Atlanta’s defensive end leaped to tip a pass, caught the deflection with a headfirst dive, rolled on the ground, alertly jumped to his feet and outran a few Cleveland players for a spectacular touchdown in the fourth quarter, giving the Falcons a 20-10 win over the battered Browns on Sunday.

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The play was rough, rugged and rowdy — like Biermann.

“Kroy is from Montana,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “He has probably rode a few wild broncos and bulls and been thrown off and landed on his feet. It was just a super athletic play.”

With the Falcons up 13-10, Biermann sniffed out a screen pass as he pressured Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme on third-and-7. Biermann jumped to bat Delhomme’s pass high in the air and then hustled to snare it, catching the ball just above the turf like a seasoned wide receiver.

Knowing he had not been touched and could still run, Biermann hopped up and rumbled 31 yards, dragging a final defender into the end zone to make it 20-10 with 4:01 left.

“That was the trifecta right there,” an impressed Falcons running back Michael Turner said. “A tremendous play. You can’t get better than that. I didn’t critique his technique. I was too busy cheering.”

Following his first career interception as a pro and the only one he could remember since junior high, the 6-foot-3, 260-pound Biermann, a fifth-round pick in 2008, was mobbed by his excited teammates as he laid breathless in the end zone.

“The right play at the right time,” he said. “Once I caught it, I just got to my feet and started to run. I was glad it all worked out.”

Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan threw a 45-yard TD pass to Roddy White as the Falcons (4-1) won their fourth straight since a season-opening overtime loss in Pittsburgh. Turner rushed for 140 yards, including a season-long 55-yarder, and White added 101 yards on five catches.

The Browns (1-4) are bruised all over.

They lost quarterback Seneca Wallace just before halftime with an ankle injury. Wallace made his fourth straight start for Delhomme, who had been out since Week 1 with a severely sprained right ankle. Wallace will undergo further tests, but he was limping around in the locker room afterward and could be sidelined several weeks.

“With me hobbling out there a little bit, that’s blood in the water for those guys,” Delhomme said. “No one’s coming to save us.”

Browns coach Eric Mangini will wait to see the extent of Wallace’s injury before making any decisions on signing another quarterback. The only other QB currently on Cleveland’s roster is rookie Colt McCoy.

Cleveland’s offense didn’t have many options. Running back Peyton Hillis was slowed after pulling a quadriceps muscle in practice Thursday. He wasn’t himself from the outset and Hillis was held to 28 yards on 10 carries. He ran for more than 100 yards in Cleveland’s previous two games.

“I was nicked up the whole time,” said Hillis, who did contribute a 19-yard TD reception. “I went out there and I knew I wasn’t 100 percent, but I knew that my teammates needed me. I wanted to stay out there for them.”

Delhomme had little mobility, making him a sitting duck against one of the league’s better pass rushes. He finished 13 of 23 for 97 yards and two interceptions. Wallace went 11 of 15 for 139 yards before being forced out.

Wallace got hurt when he was sacked by Falcons defensive end John Abraham, who beat Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas on an outside rush. Thomas was beaten for two sacks and was also pushed into the backfield by Abraham on one of Delhomme’s picks.

Matt Bryant kicked field goals of 24 and 30 yards for the Falcons.

Cleveland’s Phil Dawson kicked a 19-yarder to tie Hall of Famer Lou “The Toe” Groza for the franchise record with 234.

Ryan hooked up with White on a 45-yard TD, giving the Falcons a 13-10 lead in the third.

With time to throw, Ryan waited for White to run past cornerback Sheldon Brown, who had just re-entered the game after injuring his shoulder tackling tight end Tony Gonzalez. Ryan hit White in stride at the goal line for his longest completion this season.

“Roddy ran a great route,” Ryan said. “I just laid the ball out there and let him run under it. It was a good play call by (offensive coordinator) Mike Mularkey, seeing that Brown went out on the play before.”

Ryan took Atlanta’s offense inside the Browns’ 20 three times in the first half but came away with just two field goals.

Hillis has earned a reputation as a bruising, bashing runner. He showed nice hands in the second quarter on his TD, when he tipped Wallace’s pass with his left hand to himself before going in.

Notes: Falcons LB Sean Weatherspoon said he will have an MRI on his injured right knee. … Gonzalez had 5 catches, giving him 1,023 for his career, one behind Isaac Bruce for sixth place in league history. … With Delhomme limited, the Browns used the wildcat formation several times with Joshua Cribbs at quarterback. … Dawson, the only player remaining from Cleveland’s 1999 expansion team, has made 234 of 281 kicks, and his 82.9 percent accuracy is the ninth highest in NFL history.