Over the course of a game, it's tough for opposing defenses to fully stop the Falcons' primary wide receiver weapons, Julio Jones and Roddy White. As has been the case all season, one or the other can be taken out of a game by coverages geared specifically toward them, but it's been rare that defenses have been able to stop both White and Jones. If they can, they still have Tony Gonzalez to contend with.
One of the unsung heroes of the wide receiver corps is Harry Douglas, he of the 22-yard catch to open the game-winning drive last week against Seattle. Douglas' statistics this season aren't mind-blowing, but he's always there when he's needed. He may not be needed often because of the work Jones and White put in, but he's answered the call all season long. The connection with Matt Ryan, one of his 2008 draft-class brothers, is obvious, even though he's not catching as many balls as some others. He's a valued member of the wide receiver unit because he can be trusted any time.
"A lot of teams like to key on Roddy, Julio or Tony and my matchups may be open at the time," Douglas said on Thursday. "I just run whatever Matt calls. He trusts me, I trust him and we all trust one another."
That was exactly the case in last week's win. Douglas had only two catches in the game, but his last one was one of the most important in franchise history. After the game Ryan told the media his first objective in comeback situations is to make the first play successful.
With less than a minute remaining, Ryan connected with Douglas on a 22-yard gain on a route that saw Douglas cut across the field. It's a route Douglas enjoys running and it's not that different from the route he ran earlier in the season when he caught a 6-yard pass, the final pass of the game, to put Atlanta in position for a 40-yard field goal to beat Carolina 30-28.
Douglas thinks he's tougher than he's given credit for and that's one reason he enjoys those middle-of-the-field routes.
"I don't mind contact," he said. "So going across the middle is nothing to me. I'm able to take hits a lot of people might not think I can take it because I'm so small, but I love it. It's one of the reasons I play football because I love the contact."
Douglas had free-agent options in the offseason but chose to come back to his hometown of Atlanta. He might have gotten more passes thrown his way elsewhere, but he would have had to leave Jones and White behind and for a guy that values family like Douglas does, that wasn't in the cards.
"Those are my brothers," he said. "We do everything together and we look out for one another. The thing with us is we never get upset when another person is getting balls or anything like that. We're always excited for whoever is making the catch or whoever is making the play. We're just happy for one another. A lot of people asked me why I would come back (to Atlanta in the offseason). We're in the NFC Championship game, that's point-blank-period why I came back. It's like a brotherhood around here. We have a great organization. It was a no-brainer coming back here."