The Carolina Panthers didn’t trust themselves to gain a yard.
So Matt Ryan made them pay for their lack of faith.
The Falcons stayed undefeated with a 30-28 win over the Panthers, who chose to punt the ball back to Ryan with 59 seconds left, pinning him at his own 1-yard line rather than trying for a fourth-and-1 inside Falcons territory with the lead.
The game-winning drive started with a 59-yard bomb to Roddy White, who found himself ridiculously open despite being double-covered. Matt Bryant’s 40-yard touchdown a few snaps later was almost anticlimactic.
That decision came after quarterback Cam Newton fumbled on the previous play, stopping him short of the game-clinching first down.
The late defensive collapse ruined an otherwise solid day for the 1-3 Panthers, who ran well, and finally found a pass rush.
Charles Johnson had a franchise-record 3.5 of the Panthers seven sacks, showing why the Panthers were so desperate to back an armored car up at his doorstep to keep him from signing with his home-state Falcons in 2011.
The Panthers have major issues on defense, aside from the late furball they coughed up. Middle linebacker Jon Beason, predictably, isn’t all the way back from last year’s Achilles tear, and the drop-off in the middle is evident. They’re also not a great-tackling defense across the board, and allowed Michael Turner to run the way he had not all year.