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Rising Above the Rest


It's in the books now. The NFC South championship. The No. 1 seed in the NFC. Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. All those things belong to the Atlanta Falcons after Sunday's business-like 31-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in the regular season finale at the Georgia Dome.

Pro Bowl Weems

Kick/punt returner Eric Weems was named to the Pro Bowl earlier this week and he showed why he was deserving of the honor in the first quarter Sunday. Weems took Carolina's first punt of the game 55 yards to the end zone to give the Falcons a 14-0 lead midway through the first. The last punt return for a touchdown by the Falcons came in 2008, strangely enough against the Panthers, and it was returned by Harry Douglas.

The Magic Man

Roddy White has a habit of pulling off amazing, clutch plays at important times. He did it again Sunday. On the final drive of the first half, White made an impressive catch near the sideline for a first down to keep the drive moving. White came up with another magical play a few snaps later, catching a Matt Ryan pass off-balance, turning around among two defenders and sneaking the ball over the goal line for a touchdown before the halftime break.

In the Interception Club

The velvet ropes finally parted for cornerback Dunta Robinson as he got himself into the Falcons' interception club. It may not have come until Week 17, but the important thing is that Robinson now has the monkey off his back. A lot was expected of Robinson coming into the season and he showed why with a beautiful pick of Jimmy Clausen in the third quarter that helped set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Michael Turner.

Laying the Lumber

Despite not having a whole lot to play for, the Carolina Panthers made things a little chippy during the game. The Falcons responded with huge hits throughout the game. John Abraham will likely haunt the dreams of Carolina running back Mike Goodson after the hit The Predator delivered in the first half. William Moore is as explosive as C-4 when it comes to big hits, and he put two huge ones on ball carriers Sunday. The defense is playing as good as it has all season heading into the playoffs.

Put on Ice

Ryan was nothing short of surgical Sunday against the Panthers. The Ice Man was under pressure at times, but stayed cool, to complete 22-of-32 pass attempts for 236 yards, two touchdowns and a 110.9 passer rating. At the start of the fourth quarter, Ryan was taken out to preserve him for the postseason and backup Chris Redman took over. Ryan set a single-season record Sunday for most completions by a Falcons player, passing Jeff George.

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