Falcons-Panthers Recap: A Critical Beatdown

CHARLOTTE NC - DECEMBER 12: Michael Jenkins #12 of the Atlanta Falcons is hit by Robert McClain #36 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 12 2010 in Charlotte North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The Falcons needed a win against the Panthers. They got one.

Okay, it was a little more complicated than that. The offense was up-and-down. The defense got eaten alive by a swarm of Panthers running backs. The Falcons only got five sacks!

In the end, though, the Falcons won 31-10 and highlighted the enormous talent gap between the two teams. Even on an off day when their (admittedly weak) opponent was playing balls to the walls, the Falcons coasted to victory. That's just how things are going for the 11-2 Falcons, who take every media trope about them not winning on the road, not beating inferior opponents by a wide enough margin and so on and rip them into little pieces.

The next test will be the Seahawks on the road, a game that some fans and media types are already wringing their hands over. I don't care. These Falcons take care of business like Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and that's not going to change because of a little exposure to winter on the West Coast. If 12 wins don't do it for you, maybe you'll feel about at least 13, since the Falcons draw the Saints and Panthers at home after that.

Damn good game. Time for a damn good breakdown of individual performances. Hit the jump.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A relentlessly competent performance from Matt Ryan today, who took a few monster hits from the Panthers and threw an egregious pick on his way to being above average for the day. As always, Ryan found the open man, stayed reasonably calm under pressure and was the backbone of the team's offense.

    He didn't work any miracles, but he really didn't need to.
  • Michael Turner was very, very good today, and he morphed into Touchdown Vampire near the goal line three separate times, draining the life out of the Panthers. You gotta love that.

    Once again, Turner illustrated why he's such a pain in the ass to deal with for opposing defenses. You can slow him down on maybe 15 carries, 20 if you're very good, but 28? Unless you've got a behemoth AND well-conditioned line, that's just not going to happen. Sure enough, Turner piled up over 100 yards and paced the offense all day. Great performance.
  • Stop Roddy White? Maybe on long passes, but White still hauled in 8 catches today for 79 yards, coming just one reception short of 100 for the season. He's part safety valve, part big-play threat and all awesome. Bonus points to Roddy for not exploding after taking a couple of questionable hits through the course of the game.
  • The rest of the receiving corps was pleasantly stereotypical. Tony Gonzalez as the big red zone threat? Check. Brian Finneran great on third downs? Yup. Michael Jenkins pitching in? You bet. Harry Douglas being a deep threat we all want him to be? For one play. Sylvester Stallone as the hard-nosed former ex-marine with a heart of gold, a pocketful of machine gun shells and biceps the size of the Large Hadron collider? Why not?
  • Eric Weems managed a couple of nice returns, but Michael Koenen and Matt Bryant were the ones turning in quality performances throughout the game. The 58-yarder Koenen boomed at one point was particularly impressive.
  • The pass rush put some numbers on the board today. Kroy Biermann and John Abraham both managed two sacks and Chauncey Davis chipped on in, as well. Jimmy Clausen played it safe all day in part because he was in danger of being killed back there, which is a testament to how well the guys up front were playing.
  • Mike Peterson was a bit of a renaissance man Sunday, piling up four tackles, two assists, one of those times driving Jonathan Stewart into the backfield, a forced fumble and an interception of Clausen. The guy wasn't my first choice to start outside, but he's putting together a pretty good little season.
  • The best thing you can say about the coaching staff is that they never panicked. Even when the Panthers struggled to their feet and started putting together what look like an effort, the Falcons stuck to their gameplan and their knowledge that they were a better team. It worked out well in the end, and that deserves some props. However...

LOWLIGHTS

  • The defensive scheming in this game was somewhat bizarre. Brian Van Gorder was mixing in a healthy dose of his infamously laissez-faire coverage style with a run-stopping strategy that reminded me of the stoner uncle who sets the kitchen on fire at a family reunion and goes "Hey neph, don't sweat it, bro."

    The Falcons knew the Panthers couldn't throw. It's well-established by now that Clausen sucks, the line can't protect him and the receivers are far from elite. And yet for all that, BVG decided the wisest course of action would be to blitz hard, back off coverage and essentially give the team's running backs five yards of open air throughout the game.

    Did it work? Stopping the Panthers from scoring is the name of the game, so yes, it worked. Is it something I'd want to see against, say, the Jets? Absolutely not.
  • The pass protection was not superb Sunday. Ryan was taken down three times, two of them for huge losses, and he was moving around in the pocket more than any time in recent memory against the Panthers. Their pass rush is solid and they were selling out on the blitz a bit, but the name of the game is still protecting Ice. They'll need to do so against the Seahawks next week.
  • We should've beaten the Panthers by at least 80 points! GAWWWWSH!

THE WRAPUP

Game MVP: I'm going with Turner. Many of you will point out that he didn't exactly put the offense on his back, but sometimes you gotta reward the guy who plays consistently well and puts up big numbers. Congratulations, Burner.

Game Theme Song: I'm hype, for the critical beatdown.

One Thing To Take Away: The Falcons can handle their business against bad teams. End of story.

Next Week: Field Gulls, the SBN home of the Seahawks and one of the best blogs on our humble network. Give a visit.

Final Word: Beatdown.

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