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Falcons vs. Panthers: Tony Gonzalez says Atlanta needs to 'stay focused' against Carolina

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez says the team cannot lose focus against the 3-9 Carolina Panthers.

Chris Graythen

The Atlanta Falcons enter Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers having already clinched the NFC South championship for this season. Despite already being assured a home playoff game this season, Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez believes that the team cannot rest on its laurels entering a divisional game:

"If you look at what happened last game I mean they had us," Gonzalez said. "If it wasn't for great plays by a couple guys we might've lost that one. It's important we go out there and stay focused coming off this mini-bye week and get ready to play."

The last time the Falcons and Panthers played, Atlanta needed a late field goal by kicker Matt Bryant to win, 30-28, back in Week 4. In that game, quarterback Matt Ryan completed 25 of 40 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Gonzalez, who caught five passes for 51 yards in that game, believes the early-season win helped spark the Falcons during the season:

"It's definitely a confidence builder, but it's also a wakeup call that ‘hey, if you want to go where you think you can go and be the type of team that we think we can be, we got to play a little bit better than that,'" Gonzalez said. "We can't do that and think we're going to go where we want to go."

Gonzalez has been on both sides where a team finds a way to pull close games out, but has also been on teams where they just couldn't get that last little bit to win the game:

"I've been on that type of team in Kansas City where we won two games, but I think every game was three or four points as far as the loss goes. I don't know what it is about the bounce of the ball. Good teams find a way to win. It just shows you how close it is," he said.

The Falcons play the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff and the game will be broadcast on FOX.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.