This week, we react in bittersweet fashion to watching a great win that doesn’t—and cannot—move the needle for the season overall.
Preying on the weak
The Falcons entered the Week 14 matchup against an opponent that may have been ripe for the picking. The Panthers were mere days off of firing former head coach Ron Rivera in what seemed to be a very emotional turn of events for the franchise. So Atlanta took advantage and beat the Panthers for the eighth time in the last nine meetings and nine of the last 12. It was definitely quite a sight to see the defense record five sacks and four turnovers and the Falcons offense give Carolina issues once again. It does appear as if the Falcons are fighting for Dan Quinn as his job is hanging by a thread. But in an ugly season, Quinn found a way to go .500 at least in the rugged NFC South. - Eric Robinson
The feel-good win that meant little
You could enjoy this win—and I enjoyed it an awful lot—while acknowledging that it was hard to take away much of value from it. We know the Falcons can pass, we know that they’re capable of good things on the ground when the blocking is there, and we know their defense has been getting back on track lately. Seeing all of that confirmed is nice, and a 20 point win in a lost season is still a great game.
But this game was against the Panthers, a team the Falcons usually beat up on even when they’re not working with an interim coach and a ragtag roster. Given how bad Carolina is, it’s impossible to say whether the Falcons are getting back on a track a bit or if that was just another blip on the radar. Suffice to say I don’t expect to be having such a good time next Sunday when Atlanta travels to play the 49ers. - Dave Choate
Are the Falcons giving me unfounded hope for next year? Definitely.
Every time I think I’m out, they keep pulling me back in. When you have a season like this, it is easy to wonder if the Falcons are actually any good. Are we looking at a potential long overhaul or just a quick refresh? The more positive signs from 2019, the more I think some competent coaching gets this team back on the right path soon. Above everything else, I have concluded the biggest thing I want from the team is to just be fun to watch. Wins, playoffs, and the Super Bowl are just more positives but not necessary for an entertaining three hours. On Sunday, the team was a lot of fun to watch. That is really all I needed. - Matt Chambers
A cruel reminder of what could be
Where on Earth is this team on a regular basis? They took the coach-less Carolina Panthers to the cleaners and hung more than 40 points on them, a high for 2019. The team looked like it actually had a plan, was executing it and was getting production from its best players and beyond. When Olamide Zacchaeus is out there scoring 90+ yard touchdowns, you something is going right. But something is deeply wrong when you consider that we get flashes of this and not something far, far more consistent. The fate of the Falcons still feels like it’s going to a cleaning of the house, and games like this magnetize two things: what happens when this roster lives up to its talent and why it’s so frustrating that this isn’t what we get every week. - Cory Woodroof
A pleasant surprise in a confounding season
What can you say about this Falcons team? They’re 4-9 and have played some downright abysmal football at times. At other times—in 3 of their 4 wins, for example—they look completely dominant and capable of beating anyone. Obviously the Panthers are an opponent in deep disarray, but they’ve got a ferocious pass rush and a dynamic playmaker in Christian McCaffrey. Atlanta shut down both strengths of Carolina and finally found their own rushing attack. I’m still very much ready to move on from this coaching staff and front office, but games like these show that the Falcons might not be as far off from a talent standpoint as their record implies. - Kevin Knight