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Falcons vs. Panthers: Hat Tips & Head-Scratchers

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The Falcons played their best game of the year against the Panthers.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Falcons moved to 4-9 with their big win over the Panthers, and by every identifiable measure played their best game of the season. Atlanta was in complete control of each facet of the football game, and that led to dunking on Carolina to the tune of 40 points.

For once, I have little to gripe about.

Hat Tips

Matt Ryan hits 50K

What an accomplishment. The most decorated quarterback in Atlanta Falcons history continues to pile up accolades, and in Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers he became just the 10th quarterback in NFL history to pass for over 50,000 yards.

Ryan got into the record books on a 14-yard pass to Russell Gage in the first quarter.

Still playing at a very high level at the age of 34, Atlanta’s quarterback has a realistic shot of cracking the top-5 in career yards passing once all is said and done.

A massive hat tip to you, sir.

Offensive line

Strange what a difference that a couple of changes makes, right? Sunday was highlighted by the return of first-round guard Chris Lindstrom from the broken foot that he sustained in Week 1, and his presence along with fellow first-rounder Kaleb McGary and undrafted guard Matt Gono definitely boosted the offense.

Matt Ryan had considerable time to choose his shots — a far-cry from the unrelenting assault he was under on Thanksgiving against the Saints. The run game was also noticeably improved, with Devonta Freeman routinely having space to work into the second level and use his trademark shiftiness to make people miss.

Lindstrom played well in his first game back from injury (and only his second in the NFL), and Kaleb McGary had his best game as a professional, posting an 85.5 rating from PFF. Matt Gono should also continue to be in the mix over the final three games of the season.

The O-line has been rightfully maligned all year, but the unit put together its best performance of the year on Sunday.

Da Has played very well of late. Sack on third down in second quarter. PBU toward end of the second quarter forces tip drill and leads to a Damontae Kazee interception.

Olamide Zaccheus scores 93-yard touchdown

The Falcons have already had one rookie score a touchdown on his first NFL touch this season when running back Qadree Ollison found the end zone in Week 11. They now have two, as undrafted rookie wide receiver Olamide Zaccheus took Matt Ryan’s third quarter pass 93 yards for the score.

That’s one way to ingratiate yourself to the Atlanta faithful.

Zaccheus’ 93-yard touchdown reception was the longest touchdown pass of Matt Ryan’s career, and the third-longest in Atlanta Falcons history.

The Falcons clearly have a knack for getting rookies on the scoreline against the Panthers, as both Ollison and Zaccheus’ first-touch scores came against Carolina.

Vic & Takk

Two sacks apiece? This is the kind of performance that the Falcons envisioned with Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley bookending the defensive line, and it came to fruition in a big way against the Panthers.

Vic also forced two fumbles for good measure, his hit on quarterback Kyle Allen and subsequent recovery by Tyeler Davison would eventually push Atlanta’s lead to 20-10 early in the second half.

Younghoe Koo has a day

In his press availability yesterday, Dan Quinn joked that kicker Younghoe Koo should buy a lottery ticket after his performance against Carolina. I’m inclined to agree.

Koo went 4/4 in field goal attempts, including a career-long 50-yarder in the fourth quarter. The real highlight came in the third quarter kickoff, however. Koo teed the ball up and booted it downfield, and then proceeded to recover Greg Dortch’s fumble on the return.

The team lifted him up like a special teams demigod.

Head-Scratchers

Why can this team be so tantalizingly good and terrifyingly bad all in the same season?

Yep.