Rapid Reaction: Falcons 45, Panthers 28

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

ATLANTA -- At a time when Harry Douglas was emerging as a household name in Georgia and the NFC South standings were getting a new leader, a solitary figure sat at the end of the Atlanta Falcons' bench.

It was Atlanta's best defensive player, John Abraham. That's what made what Atlanta's offense did in the fourth quarter so amazing. Abraham went down with an unspecified injury with 13 minutes and 13 seconds left in the game and the Panthers rallying.

No problem for an Atlanta defense that's a lot better than most people realize. Even without Abraham, the Atlanta defense was able to slow Jake Delhomme. Backup defensive end Chauncey Davis came through with a key sack while Abraham was out and the Falcons (7-4) are very much in the NFC South race.

They knocked Carolina (8-3) from the top spot and allowed Tampa Bay (also 8-3, but with a head-to-head victory against the Panthers) to slide into first place.