There are some losses where almost everything goes so well that you wonder how the other team ended up with more points than your own. While there are a couple of clear culprits in this case, it's still hard to figure out why the Falcons lost to the Panthers this week. Joey Harrington came out and played like he was flipping Byron Leftwich off. Roddy White was simply spectacular all game. The defense was more than competent as a whole, and Morten Andersen even hit a couple of field goals. It was, in short, the kind of game you expect to win.
Except the Falcons didn't. Credit two dumb fumbles by Dunn and Koenen respectively as a reason for that. More than that, you have to credit DeAngelo Hall's meltdown, which cost the team 67 yards and a Panthers score. It could also cost him a substantial sum of money and some lost playing time if he's suspended, which I think Petrino will do. The knock against Hall has always been his mouth; he has all the tools necessary to be an elite corner, but he talks too much about how good he is instead of getting it done on the field. The really frustrating thing is that he was amazing against the Panthers, shutting down Steve Smith all day and really flashing the coverage skills we've all wanted to see from him. Yet in a single drive he managed to blow that big day and ruin the game for the Falcons. Unless he can check his emotions in check and shut his yapper, Hall will never be what he wants to be.
And for all that, we still could've won. I have nothing but good things to say about the offense; the line managed to open a few holes and keep Harrington on his feet. The running game obliged by being reasonably effective, but this was Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo's game. It's still too early in the season to determine whether he can turn any kind of corner, but damn was that impressive. He looked relaxed and poised all game long and just tore the Panthers' secondary to shreds. If that's the only sunshine he sees this season, at least it was the career game kind of sunshine. I mean, 361 yards and 2 TDs from Joey Harrington! I'm still giddy.
Roddy White also emphatically answered his doubters (myself very much included). He may still screw up this season fairly often, but as I remarked to runningback in the comments of the open game thread, I don't care. If he puts up numbers even resembling the seven catch, 127 yard explosion he just posted against the Panthers, I'll forgive him for penalties and most misdemeanors. For a guy who couldn't even catch the ball last year, this was a fantastic performance. I'd say Roddy's finally showing signs of living up to that first round selection, eh?
And credit the defense for a gutsy performance. DeShaun Foster never should have posted over 100 yards on us, but the way the team shut down the passing game was truly inspiring. Boley seeemed like he was everywhere in this one and Abraham went back to business as usual with a pair of sacks. They weren't great, of course, but minus that one penalty ridden drive they only gave up 20 points. I'll take that.
So you'll forgive me if I have a hard time getting too upset about this one. After losing two shitty games in a row, a loss like this is encouraging because it means the Falcons are headed in the right direction. We're a little bit of consistency--and a DeAngelo Hall muzzle--away from being taken seriously. At 0-3, that's worth cheering about.