Falcons’ Douglas back at full strength

“It sounds good,” Douglas said with the mere mention of the Falcons’ being in first place.

Then he snapped back into coach-speak mode.

“We have to take it with a grain of salt,” Douglas said. “But we are focused on being 1-0 each week.”

Douglas, who has been hobbled by a foot injury this season that caused him to miss four games, came up with three big catches during the Falcons game-winning field-goal drive in the 19-17 win over the Panthers on Sunday.

Douglas is perhaps the most humble player on the team. He was reluctant to take credit for his role in the drive.

“It wasn’t just me and Matt,” Douglas said. “It was the (offensive) line doing a great job. The tight ends and the other two receivers doing a great job and the running doing a great job and Matt doing a great job of finding me. I don’t want to just say it was me.”

But when pressed about his role, Douglas opened up a bit.

“Moments like that, I don’t shy away from them,” Douglas said. “I’ll tell you that. But like I said, Matt did a great job. All of the receivers did a great job…”

It was no coincidence that when the Ryan needed to keep the drive moving, he found Douglas while under extreme duress. Ryan completed five of eight passes, including a key 8-yarder to Douglas on third down-and-5 in the face of an all-out blitz to move the ball to Carolina’s 27, comfortably in Matt Bryant’s field goal range.

“We’ve been in that situation so many times in the past,” Douglas said. “We’ve made plays in that situation before. It’s always great when you can take the field and know what that you’re going to do what you need to do to win a football game. You know you’re going to make the plays to win the game.”

Douglas sensed a calm come over the team on the sidelines after the Panthers had taken a 17-16 lead.

“We are basically on the sidelines and we know what we have on our team,” Douglas said. “We know what we’ve done in the past. That’s why it’s great when you have so many victories in the past, coming back in the last seconds and winning games and getting points. That’s why it’s great to have that in your memory bank.

“Because you think about those times and not one time do you question yourself or that you’re not going to get the job done.”

It was the second straight week that the Falcons needed a fourth-quarter drive and the third time this season. The game-winning drive marked the 26th time that Ryan has led the Falcons on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Ryan didn’t diminish Douglas’ role.

“Having Harry back is huge for us,” Ryan said. “When we can put the four wide receivers out on the field, that makes it difficult for the defense to defend, and having him back is a huge part of why we’ve been successful.”

With the running game stuck in neutral, Douglas, Roddy White and Julio Jones combined to catch 18 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers. Douglas believes the receivers will do what’s necessary to help the offense move forward behind the revamped offensive line.

“Our backs are against the wall,” Douglas said. “We control our own destiny.”

Ryan believes his receivers will come through, too.

“Our guys are tight-knit at that position,” Ryan said. “They spend a lot of time together, and they’re really good friends. But professionally, they’re great teammates. …They care about winning, they’re unselfish, and they’re all in it together. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by guys like that.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith was elated to have Douglas back near 100 percent.

“It was great to see Matt and Harry (Douglas) connect,” Smith said. “We’ve missed some games with Harry throughout the season and it was good to have him back out there.”

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