At the beginning of the year, many NFL analysts thought the second match up between the Falcons and Panthers would be critical in determining the winner of the NFC South. Alas, the opposite is true, with both teams out of the playoff race and both rosters severely banged up throughout 2018.
Without Cam Newton, it was clear the Panthers were going to struggle to score a lot of points. The Falcons defense did a good job of generating pressure and getting some turnovers while the offense did its job as well. It was a good win that shows that this team has the tools necessary to bounce back in 2019, even if it came at the cost of draft position.
On to the drive-by-drive recap.
The Falcons win the toss and defer, opting to submit us to the pain of watching this defense first. The first NFL start for Taylor Heinicke started with a bumbled snap that he was able to still run for 3 yards. From there, Christian McCaffrey became the focal point, picking up yards in bunches as the team drove down the field. The Falcons defense allowed Heinicke to get comfortable throughout the drive, with it ultimately ending in a touchdown throw to tight end Ian Thomas. You can thank horrible tackling and stupid penalties for this outcome.
Panthers 7 - Falcons 0
The Falcons start their first offensive drive from their own 15 after a horrid return by Marvin Hall. Julio Jones quickly goes for 10 hard fought yards, proving he feels no pain. Tevin Coleman followed up with a big first down run. The Falcons stayed ahead of the ball, converting several third downs, including a big run from Mohamed Sanu out of the wildcat. Julio Jones came through big on a key third and 8 in the red zone, keeping the drive alive long enough for Matt Ryan to find Julio again in the back of the end zone for his 7th touchdown of the season.
Panthers 7 - Falcons 7
The Panthers second offensive drive started with an incompletion and a short run before the quarter came to an end. Carolina will start the second quarter with a 3rd and 6 to go.
With 3rd and 6 to go, the Panthers fail to convert after the Falcons put pressure on Heinecke with a 6 man blitz. I’m still stunned that the Falcons blitzed on third down. Someone pinch me.
Matt Ryan and the offense take to the field after a short punt return. Two consecutive runs by Tevin Coleman got the Falcons to 3rd and 5. Matt Ryan missed Mohamed Sanu on the pass, forcing a 3 and out.
The Taylor Heinecke Dance Troupe comes back out for Carolina after the Falcons punt. However, the Panthers decide the Falcons needed another shot when Jarius Wright fumbled the ball on the first pass, giving the Falcons offense the ball on the Panthers 13.
Matt Ryan and the Falcons decide they don’t want the damn ball either as Ryan is sacked and fumble the ball on the very next play. Sweet jesus what in the world was that.
The Panthers world renowned dance troupe takes to the field again, undoubtedly shocked to be out there so quickly. The first two plays wisely go to Christian McCaffrey, but the drive is set back by an offensive pass interference call. After a 2nd and 16 gains 7, the Falcons defense faced a 3rd and 9 which the Panthers convert on a long pass to Ian Thomas after the defense rushed THREE MEN. On third and 13, Grady Jarrett got the sack with Heinecke going down with an injury on the play. The refs subsequently called a roughing the passer penalty on Jarrett, which was as poor a call as I’ve seen all year. Third string QB Kyle Allen takes over at QB. After three short gains, the Panthers nail the 50 yard field goal and take the lead.
Panthers 10 - Falcons 7
Matt Ryan and the offense take over at the 25. Eric Reid helps the Falcons with a late hit on Calvin Ridley on the first incomplete pass. Ryan makes the Panthers pay by hitting Austin Hooper deep down the left side for a 32 yard gain. A good drive is ended early however, when Calvin Ridley fails to make a tough catch in traffic. Matt Bryant comes in for the 39 yard field goal and obviously nails it. Atlanta ties the game yet again.
Panthers 10 - Falcons 10
Kyle Allen and the Panthers come back and strike quickly. Jarius Wright picks up big yards over the middle, putting the Panthers on the other side of the 50. Continued production from Christian McCaffrey kept the sticks moving on the drive. At the two minute warning, Taylor Heinecke comes back into the game. He quickly completes several passes, keeping the Panthers drive alive as they moved into the redzone. The promising drive is ended prematurely as Jack Crawford snags an interception off a pass deflection.
The Falcons offense starts on their own 8 with 45 seconds left in the half. An incomplete first pass to Russell Gage stops the clock and a good run forces a 3rd and 5. Matt Ryan finds Austin Hooper, who is unfortunately 1 yard short of the conversion. Atlanta is forced to punt.
The Panthers strike fast with just under 30 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts. On the subsequent 1st down, Jack Crawford gets the sack. The Panthers spike the ball with 1 second left and a lot of yards to cover. The hail mary pass goes out of bounds, mercifully ending the first half of this game.
Panthers 10 - Falcons 10
The Falcons offense gets the ball back to start the second half. On the very first pass, Calvin Ridley reminds fans why he was a first round pick with a 75 yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. The Falcons take the lead.
Panthers 10 - Falcons 17
The subsequent Panthers drive is helped by a good kickoff return. The Falcons defense continually brought pressure and after a false start forces a third and long, they are able to force the punt.
The Falcons ensuing drive starts with a big first down run by Tevin Coleman. The promising start falls apart after Atlanta fails to convert on the third down pass to Mohamed Sanu. Matt “Boom Boom” Bosher comes on to punt.
The Panthers offense starts with a big run by Christian McCaffrey that moves the sticks. Heinecke shows off impressive legs with an ensuing 19 yard run. The offense is set back by a holding penalty and a great stop by Sharrod Neasman on 2nd down. On third and 17, the Falcons defense does not collapse and forces the punt.
Atlanta starts on their own 15 with a Tevin Coleman run for one yard. A deep shot to Julio misses the mark, but Coleman compensates with a big 20 yard run up the middle. The drive pays off big as Matt Ryan throws his 3rd touchdown on the day, finding Mohamed Sanu for the 44 yard touchdown. The Falcons take a two score lead.
Panthers 10 - Falcons 24
The Panthers offense responded, with Christian McCaffrey carrying the offense to midfield after just a few plays. Inexplicably, they stopped feeding McCaffrey and the offense began to struggle. The Falcons defense stepped up, allowing a big pickup by D.J. Moore after a quick pass. However, when they needed it, Brian Poole stepped up with a big interception. The Atlanta offense takes over.
The Falcons turn to Brian Hill on the ensuing drive, who pops off a big 32 yard run that is then offset by a 15 yard personal foul penalty when he slapped the defensive back trying to tackle him. With that play, the quarter came to an end.
Matt Ryan and the offense get into 3rd and 4 after a run for a loss and a quick pass to Sanu. Marvin Hall is unable to haul the third down pass in and the Falcons are forced to punt.
The Panthers offense come back onto the field and lean on Heinecke to move the ball with quick passes. He looked impressive as he connected repeatedly, leading the Panthers into Falcons territory quickly. Penalties kept setting the offense behind, but Taylor Heinecke and Christian McCaffrey combined to overcome most of them. However, they failed to convert a crucial fourth down pass that ends the drive inside the Falcons 15. Matt Ryan and the offense get the ball back.
Brian Hill looked impressive on his first run, picking up a bunch of yards before looking good on his second run and ultimately fumbling the ball, which Carolina recovers.
The Taylor Heinecke troupe comes back on with the ball already in Falcons territory. A nice pass into the end zone was defended perfectly by Desmond Trufant. Grady Jarrett decided to single handedly destroy the next two drives, forcing the Panthers to go for it on 4th and 10. Bruce Irvin kills the drive with a perfectly timed sack of Heinecke. The Falcons get the ball back on offense.
With a two touchdown lead and about 6 minutes left, Matt Ryan and the offense come back on the field to try and burn down the clock. A couple of runs and a pass short of the sticks ends the drive. Boom-boom Bosher comes on to punt.
Christian McCaffrey started the Panthers drive on the sidelines as the Panthers came out slinging the ball. Carolina’s offense connected on a lot of short stuff, but ended up burning down the clock quickly in the process. The drive kept going through the 2 minute warning, but was killed after Falcons rookie corner Isaiah Oliver intercepted the ball.
Brian Hill starts the next possession with a big 60 yard run, wisely staying in bounds to help burn down the clock. The Falcons kneel it and end the game with an impressive road win.
Final: Panther 10 - Falcons 24