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Palmer still heavily involved in Falcons' plans

Atlanta Falcons tight end Michael Palmer (81) falls into the end zone as Minnesota Vikings defensive back Marcus Sherels (35) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Atlanta Falcons tight end Michael Palmer (81) falls into the end zone as Minnesota Vikings defensive back Marcus Sherels (35) pursues during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

ATLANTA -- Tony Gonzalez, the most prolific tight end in NFL history, had a season-high nine catches Sunday. But the future Hall of Famer had to share a little attention with his second-year backup afterwards.

Michael Palmer caught Matt Ryan's fourth-quarter touchdown pass -- Atlanta's only second-half score -- as the Falcons held on to defeat Minnesota 24-14 at the Georgia Dome.

The Parkview graduate has just 12 career catches, but two have been scores. He caught a 5-yard TD pass from Ryan last November in a 27-21 home victory over Tampa Bay.

This touchdown grab was just a 3-yarder, but it was an important one with 6:40 left. The Falcons had seen their 17-0 lead shrink to three points before the 72-yard drive.

Needless to say, the Vikings weren't expecting the ball to be thrown to Palmer.

"Tony drew all the attention and took about three guys with him," said Palmer, who was lined up on the left as the second tight end. "That's why I was open. It was a nice easy throw from Matt. "

Palmer also had a 5-yard grab in the game, giving him two catches for just the second time. He also had two receptions in the Tampa Bay contest last season.

"It was a lot of fun," Palmer said of the TD against the Vikings. "It's always exciting to score a touchdown."

The Falcons made a goal-line stand after Percy Harvin's long kickoff return following the Palmer catch and won for the fifth time in six games while improving to 7-4. They play at Houston next Sunday.

Palmer is still waiting for a long gainer, but he has shown he has good hands on short tosses. His 11-yard gain against Tennessee the week previously matched his career longest against Cleveland last year.

Palmer set Clemson records for a tight end as a senior with 43 catches for 507 yards and four touchdowns, earning All-ACC honors. But he wasn't drafted and had to make the Falcons last season as a free agent.

The 23-year-old got to play more than expected in 2010 when Justin Peelle was hurt and is sharing backup duties behind Gonzalez with veteran Reggie Kelly this season. His seven catches are two more than last season.

With November fading into December, Palmer may also be about to change back his look. Usually clean shaven, he grew a mustache as part the yearly campaign to bring attention to prostate cancer.

"I look ridiculous, but it's for a good cause," Palmer said.