"I had no feeling in my foot at all because it was so cold. It was like block of wood," Tim Mazzetti said. "I was just hitting and hoping."
Mazzetti, the Atlanta Falcon field goal kicking whiz, made good on his 32-yard frozen-foot attempt with no time left today to lift the miracle Falcons to a 20-17 victory over the Redskins and put them one victory away from their first playoff appearance ever.
The Falcons can clinch a wild-card playoff spot by beating the Cardinals in St. Louis Sunday.
Mazzetti's kick was especially dramatic because it was his second chance. He attepted the game winner from 37 yards out with two seconds left but Perry Brooks blocked it. Ron McDole of the Redskins was off-side on the play, giving Mazzetti another chance.
"I must be the luckiest guy in the world," Mazzetti said.
The Falcons started their winning drive at their 45 with 4:48 remaining.
The play that got them within Mazzetti's range was Steve Bartkowski's 10-yard pass to Billy Ryckman.
The Falcons called time to get Mazzetti onto the field.
"That was the big play," the soccer-style kicker said. "A 47-yard attempt would have been too long for me. When Billy made that catch I knew it was up to me."
The Redskins called a timeout and used the minute to yell at Mazzetti, hoping to break his concentration.
"I just kept my head down on the spot where I was going to kick from and laughed to myself. When the game is one the line, nothing is going to make you any more nervous than you already are."
It has been an incredible season for the 22-year-old Mazzetti. He was signed as a free agent after the sixth game of the season when the Falcons released kicker Fred Steinfort.
In nine weeks, Mazzetti has kicked 12 of 15 field goals and the Falcons have won seven of nine games. His kicks have been the margin of victory in five of those games. He helped them beat San Francisco with a 29-yard field goal with one second left and he kicked five field goals in a 15-7 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
Born in Connecticut, he and his family moved to Brazil when he was 3 and he grew up there.
After going to Penn, he was cut by four NFL teams. He was a bartender in Philadelphia when the Falcons signed him.
Bartkowski, who had thrown 16 interceptions this season, was not intercepted once today and always seemed to throw to the right person. The best example was the critical pass that set up Mazzetti's kicks.
"That was a great catch," Bartkowski said of Ryckman's diving grab in front of Redskin Gerard Williams. "He was my secondary receiver. I was going to go to Wallace Francis on a corner, but they took that away and I had to go where I did."
Atlanta has lived by its defense and special teams all season. Today was no exception. Rick Byas blocked Mike Bragg's punt to set up the %falcons' last touchdown and cornerback Roland Lawrence stole the ball from John Riggins to stop a Redskin drive. Lawrence knocked down two passes in the end zone, too.
The blocked punt was Byas' second this year and Atlanta's fifth.
Byas came in from the right side untouched by any Redskin. He smothered Bragg's punt and nearly recovered it in the end zone. He lost it out of bounds at the one-yard line.
"Usually the personal protector (the man in front of the punter) blocks me -- or the outside man on the line," Byas said, "but neither did."
Before the game, Redskin Coach Jack Pardee touted Lawrence as one of the premier cornerbacks in the league. Lawrence said later he "played the best game I've played in a long time."
He knocked down two passes in the end zone, one intended for John McDaniel and one for Danny Buggs.
His most impressive play came with the score tied, 10-10, and the Redskins driving. Joe Theismann lofted a pass to John Riggins and a moment after Riggins made the catch, Lawrence grabbed the ball away from him, killing the drive at the Atlanta 25.
"I had my man covered and then I saw Teismann start to scramble," Lawrence said. "He lofted the ball and I went to it. Frank Reed was wrestling with Riggins and I just grabbed the ball. I think it surprised Riggins more than anything else."
The Falcons were relatively clam after this, the most significant victory in their 13-year history.
"We still have to win one more," Bartkowski said. "At last that's the way we are looking at it."
Coach Leeman Bennett said, "This team has just hung together all year and we did it again today."
Linebacker Greg Brezina said, "God is working on this team. We're not a defense or an offense. "We're just a unit."
The Falcons said the Redskins did not do anything unexpected. "They were a little more emotional than I thought they would be," Brezina said, "but other than that, things went just like we expected, even the score."