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Bryant has earned faith from teammates

Matt Bryant has made three last-minute kicks this season.

Matt Bryant has made three last-minute kicks this season.

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — When Falcons K Matt Bryant is on the sideline, aware the game might be decided by his right leg, he drapes a towel over his head to shut out the world.

"That towel acts like a force field," Bryant said. "For whatever reason, that seems to block out a lot of things."

No kicker has been more clutch than Bryant over the past three seasons, especially this season. He has won three games in the final minute of regulation, including a 49-yard field goal with eight seconds left in last week's victory over Seattle.

"For whatever reason, I feel like I'm hitting the ball a lot better now than I have in a long time," Bryant, 37, said. "Even that 49-yarder, it would've been good from 60 yards plus. I smoked that one. I think that's the best ball I've ever hit."

Bryant was cut by the Bucs in favor of Mike Nugent just before the 2009 season. The Falcons signed him in December of that season. And since the start of the 2010 season, he has won five games with last-minute field goals. That's more than any other kicker, according to STATS LLC. The Steelers' Shaun Suisham has three. No one else has more than two.

"You don't need to panic when you're in a (last-minute) situation," Atlanta G Justin Blalock said. "You know you've got a guy that everyone has faith in. Once you cross midfield, you know he's going to put it through."

Injury report: Falcons coach Mike Smith said he expects DE John Abraham to start against the 49ers. He sprained his left ankle during the season finale against the Bucs and aggravated it Sunday. But Smith said he will give reserves Cliff Matthews, Jonathan Massaquoi and Lawrence Sidbury more snaps at practice this week.

Time machine: As a motivational ploy, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh taped high school photos of each of his players to their lockers. With each photo was the player's ranking by scouting services at the time.

"Coach really wants us to tap into what we wanted to be at that time," S Donte Whitner said. "When you look at this picture, it's like, 'At this moment, what did I want to be?' We all look at this, and we understand what we wanted to be and where we are now."

While WR Randy Moss, 35, was No. 1 in every category, only his photo and that of G Leonard Davis, 34, were in black and white. Joked CB Chris Culliver, 24: "I don't think they had color pictures back then."

Bryant has earned faith from teammates 01/16/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 10:41pm]
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