ATLANTA - In Bengaldom it is no longer fourth and goal or fourth and short or fourth and a country mile.
It is fourth and T.B. Tyler Boyd's fingerprints were all over this one Sunday. Never mind the career-high 11 catches and the two ice-cold fourth-down conversions in the final 57 seconds. Try the thigh injury that drove him from the game a few times, symbolizing the gutty Valley Forge slog from their own 25 that consumed 4:08 and 75 yards while overcoming a sack that turned into an incomplete pass, a penalty on left tackle Cordy Glenn and a depleted cupboard. Even with running back Giovani Bernard and wide receiver John Ross on the sidelines, quarterback Andy Dalton scrambled and dodged and bobbed and weaved brilliantly to save the day.
But isn't that what this game was? Overcoming Matty Ice's 419 yards, 173 of them to the monstrous Julio Jones and 111 more to an old friend, the savvy and slick Mohamed Sanu?
"Blue collar," said Boyd, 100 yards even giving him his second straight 100-yarder in this break-out year. "This is my third year. I had a great camp. I showed them how reliable I am. I want to keep that chip on my shoulder. I got a little banged up. It's just a bruise, a nick. It's not enough to sit out. I want to win."
Boyd plays like you think a kid from the hardscrabble Western Pennsylvania town of Clairton would play, a kid that did it all for a perennial power. He's tough, resourceful and knows the game like the river boat know the Monongahela River.
"He's a dog," said wide receiver A.J. Green of his relatively new running mate. "He's a guy that works his butt off every day. He's confident. He's got great hands. That guy's a dog. He's a dog out there. You can't get him one-on-one the way he can separate in the seam."
Going 100 back-to-back isn't easy to do. Green has only done it six times and he hasn't done it in two years. The last guy to do it before Green was Terrell Owens eight years ago. Sanu came close once, two in three weeks of 2014, and on Sunday Boyd stood toe-to-toe with the guy he replaced. Boyd has that same third-down feel that Sanu has, but he's developing an even bigger rep for coming through when the play is the biggest.
Everyone knows how last season ended with his fourth-and-12 49-yarder beating the Ravens with 44 seconds left. Now he has jump-started this season with not one, but two fourth-down conversions with in the final 57 seconds:
One: Fourth-and-eight from the Falcons 35. Boyd lines up as the inner most receiver of a three-man set deployed to the right. Boyd turns cornerback Desmond Trufant completely around, starting outside and then cutting inside.
"I went on a 12-yard stop route. I got them to overrun it and I sat in there perfectly," Boyd said.
Second: Fourth-and-six from the Falcons 20 with 22 seconds left. Boyd lines up as the only slot receiver to the right with Alex Erickson on the outside and on the other side tight end C.J. Uzomah in the slot next to Green. Boyd makes a move inside with Trufant in his face and then loses him when he spins outside and Dalton hits him in stride. Boyd still needs to get the first down and dives to the 13 to get it.
"That's a slant out," Boyd says. "My first reaction was looking the DB in the eyes to see what coverage he was in, to see if he would give that away to me. I knew they were in man. I knew I was going to be able to set him up and beat him."
Everybody was a Boyd on Sunday.
- Erickson, bouncing around at receiver, returned a kick 47 yards early in the fourth quarter to set up Randy Bullock's 36-yard field goal with eight minutes left to cut it to 33-31.
- Rookie running back Mark Walton injured his head early in the second half but was cleared, came back and was on the field for the last drive when Bernard couldn't answer the bell. His 24 yards catch-and-run ignited one drive and his first five NFL carries netted him just nine yards.
- Dalton, calm and poised, was the ultimate Boyd on that drive. He not only scrambled once, he survived a sack and fumble with the help of replay. And he's the guy that keeps finding Boyd.
"He's so good at getting in and out of his breaks, coming across the field, shallows, different things that he did on that drive and the biggest one was down there," Dalton said. "When we needed to make the play, he got out and got enough for the first down. I have so much faith in all our guys. Tyler is playing at a really high level right now.
"He's playing with a lot of confidence and he understands exactly what we're doing and how to run routes. It showed with the production that he's had. I think he's put in a lot of work. I think a lot of it is just natural for him too. He's got a great feel for the game and it showed with the big plays that he made today."