Section 326 was loud today, perhaps louder than it was last weekend. With a division foe in the house and nary a teal jersey in sight, 326 swung very pro Falcons. Maybe it was the free old-school Falcons logo flags given out at the gates, maybe it was the domination of Miami last week; whatever reason, I came home with a sore throat and a pounding headache. Very fun combination for a three hour drive home that starts in Atlanta traffic.
It was nice seeing some old faces out there on the field. Nobis, after graciously hugging a random ball boy, got a standing ovation from the crowd in the third quarter. Bob Whitmore was in there too, but the rest were mere cogs in the machine during the 3-11 first Falcons season in 1966. The crowd ate it all up, waving their old-school logo flags for everything from player intros to touchdowns and defensive stands. It would do the organization well to mark that fans love the flags and the players more than likely love seeing them. That sea of red and white waving on every third down, every touchdown, every kickoff is a sight to see. Hopefully, we get to see it more as the schedule gets tougher.
- Remember Delhomme taking that timeout on their first possession when trying to check down? Yeah, that was us, the Dome crowd. We were loud.
- This game, like most division games, never felt either in or out of hand. Carolina's offense did what I expected: return to normal. Smith, Delhomme, and Williams (dang DeAngelo!) were all on par with my prophecy that the Falcons would not be facing the Panthers of last week or last post season.
- Defense definitely showed some holes today, especially if the ball was in Williams' hands. I'm not sure whether this is a reflection of how good he is as a player or how bad our DL is. Containing Williams was a struggle all game long.
- What's heartening is that, after each Falcons turnover (a Turner fumble and a Ryan interception; both rarities), the defense stood their ground when it was absolutely necessary.
- Steve Smith was back to his old antics, catching everything he could when it was thrown his way. Houston was the cover man on top of Smith and he was constantly having to play catchup. However...
- Houston made up for it when he halted a likely Panthers scoring drive by getting in front of a Delhomme-to-Smith pass a yard or two from the endzone. Take that, detractors.
- Matt Ryan came out in the first half on a mission. Before the game, through the binocs, my game buddy Kyle noticed that Ryan was one of the biggest "jumpers/screamers" in the pregame warmup huddle. Kyle turned to me and said "Ryan's going to be big this game." My friend turned out to be right. Ryan completed 13 consecutive passes in route to a third first quarter touchdown pass.
- Turner, as Dave has mentioned, was a grinder. He had a couple of big runs but nothing spectacular. I solely blame this on our opponents' having to gameplan Turner. They're looking at old tape and Mularkey was more than happy to eschew the rush for the pass early in the game. Expect this to shift later in the season. With Ryan passing so much, I think we're going to see a lot less eight-in-the-box looks from opposing defenses. Vishnu help them if Turner gets into the secondary.
- Alien and Predator were waging their epic battle elsewhere today. Our DL was handled by the Panthers and for that I applaud them.
- Jerry went down with what looked to be a knee injury (from my vantage). Those of you who stuck around here during the offseason will remember that Jerry went down in Minicamp with a knee injury. He was back shortly after. Let us hope it's no more serious than that.
- Gonzalez has a TD catch in each game so far. I bet he'll have at least one in every game this year. Any takers?
- How about Jason Snelling stepping in for the mildly injured Norwood? Two big runs and a receiving touchdown. I'd say that ain't bad for a third spot RB.
- Here's a funny story: Delhomme throws to the endzone on a last-second desperation play. The ball hits the ground a few seconds before a Panthers receiver dives for the ball. Mike Smith and staff celebrate, saunter onto the field. Fox and co. do the same. Players shake hands. Coaches share pleasantries. Matt Ryan struts off to the locker room, Dome Production Crew camera following him all the way. The stands start emptying. As Kyle and I discuss the other games running along the ticker below the 200 level, a referee tries to get his voice heard over the raucus crowd. After a few attempts, someone in the mixing booth turns up his mic. "Please return both teams to the field. The play is under review." Mike Smith, near the pylon a few yards from the tunnel leading to the locker room, pauses. A replay of the final play comes up onto the big screens. It clearly shows the ball hitting the ground. The referees start their confab. Mike Smith leaves the field, shaking his head.
- All day long, it seems the refs just couldn't get anything right. When 94 (panthers) went down with 1:22 to go, the Panthers had no timeouts. NFL Rules states that the clock would continue to run while the player is attended to. Instead, the refs stop the clock and Mike Smith starts to breathe fire. While the injured player is limped to the Panthers sideline, Smitty is chewing two referee's faces off. Eventually, the head ref gets on the intercom and says "The Panthers have spent their fourth timeout." Now, the last time I checked, timeouts do not carry over from the first half. There should be no such thing as a fourth timeout. Am I wrong? Good job again, guys. Wherever the NFL is getting these jokers, they need to rethink it. Looks like referee school needs a stimulus package.