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Trust Ran Deep on Falcons' Final Drive


The talk in the locker room after Sunday's last-minute, nail-biter from the Falcons — this one, in case you were watching one of the other nail-biters in the NFL on Sunday — was about trust.

The trust started on the opposite sideline with Carolina head coach Ron Rivera opting to give the ball back to the Falcons, where they started on their 1-yard line, and trusting in his defense to come up with a game-winning stop.

On Atlanta's sideline, the Falcons, decked out in their throwback uniforms, the same uniforms they wore in 2010 against the 49ers when they pieced together a final-minute, game-winning drive from around the 1-yard line, had complete trust in their quarterback. After all, they'd seen this scenario before.

The trusted one, Matt Ryan, couldn't do it alone, he'd need some help from receivers and since trust was flowing, Ryan included four of them in the game's final minute to reach the end result, a 30-28 win over the Panthers.

Ryan's first pass really did the damage, a 59-yard bomb to Roddy White that put Atlanta on Carolina's 40, but they still had 27 seconds left to get closer before Matt Bryant could finish what they started.

"We just did a heck of a job making plays," White said. "Once we got to midfield I thought we were going to win the game. We just did a heck of a job, and showed a lot of character today. Not for one second did we think we were going to lose the game. We always thought we were going to win."

On the White reception, he was joined downfield by Julio Jones and one of the two would make the play. It was a designed call and Ryan trusted White to go up and make a grab. Jones didn't make a catch on the drive but he was targeted on the next two passes. On the second, he was in position to make the catch and earned a pass interference call that kept the chains moving for the Falcons.

After the Jones sequence came Tony Gonzalez' turn. He caught a 7-yard pass from Ryan and managed to get to the sidelines, where he was pushed out of bounds at the Carolina 28.

Harry Douglas' one catch on the day came next, a 6-yard completion and he also managed to get out of bounds to stop the clock with 10 seconds remaining.

"Tony and Harry finished the game for us," Ryan said after the game. "We were kind of on the edge of field goal range; Matt (Bryant) has a really strong leg so we were on the edge. That was just kind of the icing on the cake when you knock out 10 more yards. That was big for us. It really was. I thought Tony and Harry did a great job understanding where they were and what they needed to do to get out of bounds."

From the Carolina 22, it was a 40-yard field goal for Bryant, far from the longest of his career. The game of trust that determined the outcome of Atlanta's fourth win of the season ended with Bryant as he hit the 13th game winner of his career.

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