*AtlantaFalcons.com contributing writer Daniel Cox takes a day-after look at the Falcons' 31-10 win over the Panthers on Sunday. It was a break from the late-game drama that Atlanta has experienced in recent weeks, proving that they can win big in addition to the many close calls they've pulled out this season. *
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. —Harry Douglas had to feel a little relieved after being on the receiving end of the longest play for the Falcons in Sunday's 31-10 win over the Panthers.
In the first quarter on third-and-3, quarterback Matt Ryan found the wide receiver deep down the sideline for a 46-yard pass completion. It tied the Falcons' season record for longest pass play.
It was a big play in a big moment that led to Atlanta's second straight score to put them up 14-0 very early against Carolina.
For Douglas, who is still working his way back from a lost 2009 season due to an ACL injury, it was one of those moments that told him the progress is there, a feeling that has been gaining momentum in recent weeks.
"I'd say within the last three weeks I actually feel back like my old, old self," Douglas said. "I think I'm finally back to 100 percent and I feel good. I just want to approach every day, work hard, grind and do what I've got to do."
It was also about as pretty of a pass play as the Falcons have had this season. Ryan saw Douglas in one-on-one coverage and heaved it, hitting the receiver in perfect stride for the big gain.
As Douglas has begun to feel better, the franchise is working him into the game plan more and more, utilizing his speed and shiftiness to pick up chunks of yards. Against Tampa last week he had one catch for 21 yards. After that result, they went back to the drawing board this week, determined to hook up again.
"In practice this week, we worked real hard on throwing the deep ball and getting some routes together so me and (Ryan) could be on the same page," Douglas said. "It paid off (Sunday)."
With Douglas matched up against cornerback Robert McClain, Ryan felt there was a good chance to go big. From the moment it left his hand, he felt good about what was about to happen.
"Yeah, that was a good one," Ryan said. "It felt good off the hand. Harry ran a great route. We had press coverage and when you have that you know you have an opportunity on those routes. Harry ran a great route, left me some room on the sidelines to fade him out of bounds and just made a great catch."
Behind Enemy Lines:It doesn't look like the Panthers players have given up on themselves and the team, but their fans may have.
On a day when the weather was difficult for the natives of a nice-weather city like Charlotte, it's understandable that the turnout Sunday was less than desirable.
Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observerdescribed it as "the most-poorly attended home game" of the season.
The close proximity of Atlanta to Charlotte made it an attractive road trip for Falcons fans, and by all accounts they turned out to support their home team on the road. The poor weather wasn't enough to keep them away and they were rewarded with an at-times dominating performance by the Falcons.
From the FanCast:In Sunday's FanCast, it's become evident that fullback Ovie Mughelli is becoming a sort of cult figure among fans.
They love his attitude, his enthusiasm, his hard-hitting ways leading the running attack and that he's a fullback who can make a play or two.
After spending much of his time in the middle of the season as a battering ram in front of running back Michael Turner, recent weeks have seen Mughelli get in the act in the passing game.
A big 16-yard catch and conversion for a first down in Week 12 led to a huge three-catch, 32-yard, one-touchdown day last week. This week, the fans were calling for Mughelli to get a little more.
"Get Ovie his score," said Falcons fan SetzerFalcon, leading a near-virtual chant for the fullback.
Mughelli didn't get the opportunity to score Sunday, but he did extend his reception streak to three games, catching another 16-yard pass.
Statistically Speaking:Minus five.
That was the temperature somewhere Sunday in North America, but it's also the number of passing yards the Falcons allowed in the first half of the game from the rookie arm of quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Clausen may have been overmatched before the game began, but the Falcons still had to do the work to limit him and that they did. Five sacks and a passing total going in the opposite way of good is a great way to shut down an offense.
Pivotal Play:Although the game never felt doubtful for the Falcons, there was a point in the fourth quarter where the Panthers could have scored to draw within one touchdown of Atlanta.
As they've done for much of the season, Atlanta's defense stepped up to make a key play to shut things down for the opposing offense.
On second-and-11 with the linebackers dropping back in coverage, Stephen Nicholas read exactly where Clausen was going with the ball. He leaped to knock the pass and Mike Peterson who was converging on the play snatched it out of the air and returned it 17 yards.
The Falcons turned the turnover and good field position into a touchdown and that was the ballgame.
That's A Wrap: Yes, the Falcons are in the midst of a three-game road trip, but so far it's gone well, something some in the media felt wouldn't happen.
So far they're 2-0 in that trip, but they've been on the road for three of their past four games. They're 4-0 in those games. They're 4-0 in the division. They've won seven straight.
The Falcons are 11-2.
Mondays have become synonymous with victory, but there's still a long way to go.
Even if Atlanta clinches their playoff berth in the next two weeks, there's still one celebration and one celebration only that the Falcons want to have.