"Thomas, it's not a surprise to us because we've been seeing him develop as a safety in our defensive scheme in practice and he's getting really good at the position," Wire said.
"He makes plays like that all the time in practice. I think now everyone else is starting to see what he's capable of and he's going to continue to make plays like that for us."
Truth be told, the veterans had their share of big plays, too. There was Peterson's sack and sack that was shared by Babineaux and John Abraham in the final two minutes. They collapsed the pocket around Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler for a seven-yard loss with 1:12 left in regulation, setting up third-and-17 from the Falcons 31.
Cutler's final pass on fourth down fell incomplete, securing victory for the Falcons.
"Really, I think the big play was not the last play of the game, it was the previous play when we got the sack," Smith said. "Any time you can get a sack in a two-minute situation, I think you enhance your chance of being successful in those red zone series."
The final numbers were not pretty for the Falcons except for one. They allowed the Bears 373 yards of total offense, but they won the turnover margin with those three to the Bears' two.
Babineaux, the fifth-year defensive tackle, had a huge night. He had the forced fumble, the half sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass defended, deflecting Cutler's pass incomplete on first down of the Bears' final series from the Falcons' 14.
"Every game we try to go out and make turnovers," Babineaux said. "I think turnovers put you in a great position to win at the end of the game. Today we had three. That really helped us out, especially getting them in the red zone. We took points off the board that they could have had at least three [scores] in the red zone."
One concern coming out of this game will be the status of one of the team's veteran defenders: defensive back Brian Williams left the game with 6:18 left in regulation with a knee injury.
So Chevis Jackson, another second-year player, took his place in the secondary. That put him in there with second-year cornerback Brent Grimes and third-year cornerback Chris Houston.
It wasn't always pretty, but they fought. And won.
"Our guys just kept fighting and fighting and fighting and there was no quit in that group of men tonight," Smith said.
MORE FROM THE FALCONS-BEARS GAME:
GAMEDAY LIVE:Complete game coverage from AtlantaFalcons.com * FEATURE:Falcons defense stands tall in Sunday night win * GAME CENTER:Stats and more in the NFL.com Game Center * FIRST TAKE:Exclusive postgame videos from AtlantaFalcons.com * VIDEO:More Falcons-Bears video interviews and highlights * THE BEAT BLOG:In-game thoughts and stat updates * J. MIKE'S MISSIVES:Thoughts and commentary from the Managing Editor * GAME NOTES:Official game notes from the Georgia Dome press box * QUOTES:Thoughts from the Falcons postgame locker room | Bears * INACTIVES:Falcons-Bears inactives and probable starters * FORUMS:Talk about the game with other fans on FalconsLIFE