Holy crap, the Falcons appear to be on a roll again. Too bad they didn’t decide to go on one before a five-game slide totally missing out on the playoffs. The Atlanta Falcons defeated a Can Newton-less Carolina Panthers 24-10.
Matt Ryan has a modest but spectacular day under center for the Falcons who improved to 6-9. Ryan only completed 15 of 26 passes for 239 yards for a percentage of 57.1. The Atlanta QB did throw for three scores and when you do the math that breaks down to a touchdown on every fifth completion.
Calvin Ridley led all receivers with 90 yards on three catches that included a 75 yard catch and run in the third quarter that gave the Falcons the lead for good. On their next series Mohamed Sanu put the game out of reach with a 44 yard touchdown reception.
More impressive on offense was the running game that ran for over 200 yards led by second year pro Brian Hill who led all runners with 115 yards.
With Newton missing his first game against the Falcons since he was drafted to sa the Panthers were pass happy would be an understatement. Despite having Christian McCaffrey in the backfield – and he did his part running for 101 yards, the Panthers threw the ball 53 times. Taylor Heinicke was 33-of-53 for 274 yards with one touchdown on the team’s opening series and three interceptions. He was also rattled by the Falcons’ defensive line as he was hurried, pushed and sacked twice. Starting his first game, Heinicke was seeing stars from the beating he was taken as he left the game briefly after injuring an elbow.
With everyone starting to finally get healthy hopefully this is the start of some momentum to not only finish the season but carry over into next year with some key players up for free agency like Grady Jarrett and Tevin Coleman. The offensive line will need improvement, but while Ryan has been sacked an astounding number of times this season, he was only taken down once against division rival Carolina. The team also played their first balanced game mixing run and pass well. The line even opened big holes for long runs by Hill, Coleman and Sanu.
The biggest play that will get the most coverage from the game came from punter Matt Bosher as he body slammed the Panthers’ Kenjon Barner on a kickoff return. There’s a viral video all around the web to check out.
The Falcons improve to 6-9 and climb into second place with the win as they sweep the season series with Carolina. The Falcons will finish the season on the road next week facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm and the game will be aired on Fox.
– Dave Weinthal