The last time the Falcons and Panthers met, the Falcons were riding a hot three-game stretch to begin the season and the Panthers were off to a 1-2 start and looking to rebound from a blowout loss at home to the New York Giants.
The Falcons would require a close game to get the win that day, as they have numerous times this season and have continued to win since. The Panthers lost six more games and they welcome the Falcons to Charlotte on Sunday with another loss lingering in their mouths. The seasons of the two teams have been complete opposites of each other. As the Falcons have won so many close games, giving their fans plenty of things to worry about until the final second of each game as they narrowly escape with a win, the Panthers have come out on the opposite side of things.
Atlanta has found itself in all kinds of bad situations in games this year and has usually been able to come back from it. Even the Falcons' one loss was a close one, a loss by four points to the Saints. Resiliency and resolve have been two characteristics closely linked to the 2012 Falcons and for good reason.
"You've got to find ways to win games," safety Thomas DeCoud said on Wednesday. "If the cookie doesn't crumble in your favor, you have to go back to the drawing board. Luckily, we've been able to find ways to win games and pull games out whether it's a field goal, making a stop on defense or a last-second touchdown. We've been able to figure out how to win games in that regard and it's paid dividends for us."
Atlanta has won seven games this season by seven points or more. On the other hand, the Panthers have had two blowout losses and every other game has been close. Their three wins were all by eight points and their other seven losses were all by six points or less.
Eventually teams that can't win the close ones find a way to turn the corner. At the very least, the Falcons see a team that keeps things close and is playing hard and that's who they're preparing for on Sunday.
"Regardless of what a team's record is, you're going to get a good effort from them," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Especially against a good young football team. They have a lot of talent and they play hard. We're going to have to match up.