The arm of Matt Ryan, the ability of Roddy White, and the leg of Matt Bryant.
It all added up for the Falcons on Sunday, as Bryant nailed a 40-yard field goal in the final seconds to help the Birds fly to 4-0 with an exciting 30-28 win over the rival Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome.
The win would not have come if it were not for the huge hookup of Ryan and White, who combined on a 59-yard pass which helped set up Bryant for the game-winner with 5 seconds remaining to keep the Falcons perfect.
It’s the first time since 2004, a season that saw them reach the NFC Title game, that the Falcons are 4-0.
Down 28-27, the Falcons took over from their own 1-yard line with 59 seconds remaining. On the first play, Ryan threw it up for White, who hauled in the ball for a 59-yard pass.
A defensive pass interference penalty put the ball at the Carolina 35. Matt Ryan completed two passes before Bryant kicked the game-winning field goal.
Ryan completed 25-of-40 passes for 369 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Falcons. White caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner carried the ball 13 times for 103 yards and hauled in three passes for 68 yards and a score.
Cam Newton nearly willed the Panthers to the win over their toughest NFC South foe. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, rallying the Panthers from a 24-14 deficit in the second half.
It looked like he had clinched it when, on third-and-2 at the Atlanta 46, he took the snap and bulled his way over the left side, his body surging across the spot he needed to seal the victory.
But John Abraham knocked it loose, the ball squirting backward. Fullback Mike Tolbert covered it for Carolina at the 45 – 1 yards shy of a first down. After attempting unsuccessfully to draw the Falcons offside, the Panthers punted it away. When they downed it at the 1, it looked as though they would still be able to preserve the win.
But Ryan and White had other ideas.
Newton’s fumble ruined what had been a stellar performance. He threw for 215 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown to Greg Olsen early in the game, then a 36-yard scoring play to Kealoha Pilares that put the Panthers ahead 28-24 with 7:55 remaining, capping their comeback from a 24-14 deficit.
Newton also ran for 86 yards on nine carries, bulling his way into the end zone from 4 yards out late in the third quarter.
DeAngelo Williams rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for Carolina, which has lost two in a row. Olsen caught six passes for 89 yards and a score.