Ryan had no timeouts and surely some doubt about how much time his beleaguered offensive line would give him. But he dropped back about as far as he could, threw it about as far as he could, and relied on White to go up and make the catch.
He did, between two defenders.
Bryant's kick won it with 5 seconds remaining.
"We made the plays when we needed to," said Ryan, who passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns. "That's what you need to do week to week in this league."
The Falcons (4-0) are off to their best start since 2004, when they reached the NFC championship game.
This was their stiffest challenge yet.
"That was exciting. Whew!" said coach Mike Smith, finally able to exhale. "Every time it looked bleak, every time it looked like we didn't have a chance, we were able to overcome it."
Newton threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score. But he let the ball slip away when it looked as though he had clinched the victory for the Panthers (1-3).
"You have to protect the football," Newton said. "That was a key focus going into this game, and I fumbled. There's a lot of guys that are trusting the ball carrier, and I was the ball carrier that particular play to get the job done. And I dropped the ball."
On third-and-2 at the Atlanta 46, Newton took the snap and bulled his way over the left side, his body surging across the spot needed for the first down. On the sideline, several of the Panthers broke into a celebration.
Ryan and White took advantage of another chance.
"I threw it high and far to the spot we talk about," Ryan said. "Roddy went up and made a great catch. When you're in that situation late in the game, that's what you have to do."
White was sandwiched between cornerback Josh Norman and safety Haruki Nakamura, but managed to leap over both of them to bring down the pass at the Carolina 40. A pass interference call and two short completions made things easier for Bryant, who had already connected from 41 and 33 yards to improve to 8 for 8 on the season.
Make it 9 for 9.
The kick was straight down the middle.
"Matt told me he was going to throw it up there. Just make a play," White said. "Not for one second did we think we were going to lose the game."
Johnson spent so much time in the backfield he should've worn an Atlanta jersey, finishing with 3Â½ sacks. Ryan was hit nine times after throwing and hurried on eight other attempts.
"The offensive line did a great job," Ryan said, all evidence to the contrary. "If you're going to throw the football that far down the field, you need some time. The guys did a great job of pass protection, giving us time to throw it down there."
Newton also ran for 86 yards on nine carries, bulling his way into the end zone from 4 yards late in the third quarter.
"I want to apologize to my teammates and the fans that were watching out there," Newton said. "Everybody was doing their job. I clearly had the first down, but I've just got to hold onto the football."
Ryan also connected on a 60-yard touchdown with Michael Turner, who took a screen pass right about the line of scrimmage and zigzagged down the field for the first scoring reception of his nine-year career.
Notes: The Falcons failed to score a TD on their opening possession for the first time this season, going three-and-out. Also, it was the first time the Panthers did not allow a touchdown on their opponent's opening drive. ... Nakamura had an early interception, but it was largely a day to forget for the Carolina free safety. He was beaten on both of White's touchdown receptions, missed a tackle on Turner's scoring play and had the ball snatched away by White on the long pass that set up the winning field goal. ... Atlanta's only other 4-0 start came in 1986.
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press