ATLANTA — Take that, Ocho and T.O.
Roddy White had one of the best games of his career, outshining Cincinnati’s loquacious receiving duo all by himself to lead the Atlanta Falcons to a wild 39-32 victory over the Bengals on Sunday.
Highly motivated by Chad Ochocinco’s trash talking and the chance to go against Terrell Owens, White made 11 catches for 201 yards — many of them truly spectacular. There was a one-handed reception. And a juggling grab while falling into the end zone. And, finally, a mighty leap to come down with a 2-point conversion, which didn’t even count on his individual stats.
“I had a little chip on my shoulder,” White said.
If it had been thrown his way, he undoubtedly would’ve caught that, too.
“Roddy has been the best player on our football team,” said Falcons coach Mike Smith, who’s usually reticent about singling out individuals. “That was a wonderful game.”
The Falcons (5-2) squandered a 24-3 halftime lead, actually falling behind when Cincinnati (2-4) took advantage of two turnovers and ripped off 22 straight points in the third quarter.
The Bengals scored one of their TDs when Adam “Pacman” Jones ripped the ball away from White and returned it for a touchdown. But that mistake didn’t even ruin White’s day. He bounced right back in the final period.
“I was upset,” White said. “I just wanted to go out there and have my quarterback keep throwing the ball my way.”
Matt Ryan did just that, and White hauled in his second touchdown of the day on an 11-yard pass to put the Falcons back ahead to stay. On the 2-point conversion, Ryan had to scramble and finally just heaved the ball toward the end zone. No worries.
White leaped over Leon Hall and two other defenders close by, yanking down the ball to put Atlanta up 32-25.
But White’s best catch of all came early on, when he hauled in a pass using only his right hand. His left arm was busy fending off Jones.
Any other day, White’s top play would’ve been a 43-yard touchdown in which he beat two defenders and had the ball pop away as he was falling. He kept his concentration, grabbed it back and tumbled across the goal line.
All along, he was intent on outplaying Ochocinco and Owens.
“I know how good they’ve been over the years,” White said. “Anytime you go against those guys, you want to do well.”
After Cedric Benson’s fumble gave the ball back to the Falcons, White made two more catches and Michael Turner
powered over for his second TD on a 3-yard run with 4:33 remaining. Turner, who had only one touchdown on the season coming in, finished with 121 yards on 23 carries.
Ryan had his best game of the season, completing 24 of 33 for 299 yards and three touchdowns.
Ochocinco said the defending AFC North champion Bengals couldn’t afford another loss so early in the season, and he tried to fire up his teammates — and needle the Falcons — by supposedly sending derogatory T-shirts to the Atlanta defensive backs.
The Falcons said they never got the shirts, but White made it clear that he wanted to make Ochocinco pay for his jabbering. “We’re going to go out there and want to run the score up on him for doing that,” the receiver said during the week.
Not even big days from Ochocinco (10 catches, 108 yards) and Owens (nine catches, 88 yards) could overshadow White’s performance. In fact, they weren’t even the Bengals’ top pass catcher — Jordan Shipley piled up 131 yards on six catches, including a 64-yard touchdown.
Ochocinco downplayed the impact of his supposed gifts.
“I do that every week,” he said. “That’s really a challenge to them. There’s nothing new about that.”
Carson Palmer probably had a sore arm when this one was done. The Bengals quarterback completed 36 of 50 for 412 yards and three TDs. It wasn’t enough, though.
Owens became just the fifth player in NFL history with 150 TDs when he hauled in a 19-yard scoring toss from Palmer.
Ochocinco had an 8-yard touchdown catch with 1:33 remaining, but the Falcons recovered the onside kick and sacked Palmer on the final play.
Owens was at the center of perhaps the game’s biggest play midway through the fourth quarter. Breaking into the clear, he made a twisting catch at the 5 and dove for the end zone. But in his haste to score, T.O.’s left foot caught the sideline and his effort — which would have put Cincinnati in position for the tying TD — was ruled incomplete.
Benson fumbled on the next play, and the Falcons drove the other way for the score that put them ahead by two touchdowns.
Notes: The Falcons played without top CB Dunta Robinson, still recovering from a concussion sustained in his brutal hit on Philadelphia WR DeSean Jackson, one of the plays that led to the NFL’s crackdown on helmet shots. ... Even with the new rules, Atlanta S Thomas DeCoud went out early in the game with a head injury after cracking helmets with Benson. No penalty was called.