This one figured to be a win for Atlanta, given that Carolina has been woeful and just fired Ron Rivera, but I don’t think anyone saw it being this lopsided. After a relatively slow start to the game, the Falcons ran away with this one.
That was partially due to a resurgent game from the offense, which ran the ball effectively and had a lot of success through the air, and partly due to another game defensive effort, as the Falcons had five sacks and three turnovers in this one. It was a total team effort, the kind we wish they could manage against teams besides the Panthers.
For one afternoon, though, it was a lot of fun to watch. Ryan had a 93 yard pass to the great Olamide Zaccheaus, Damontae Kazee picked two passes, Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley each got two sacks, and Younghoe Koo was tremendous again, hitting four field goals and recovering a fumble on a kickoff return. That’s the kind of game I hope to see a lot more of in 2020, even if not all those players will be back. I wish we didn’t have to wait so long to see what this team was capable of, but if it proves there’s enough here to compete next year without blowing up the roster, it’s kind of worth it.
Here’s the drive-by-drive recap from Kevin Knight and Dave Choate.
The first drive got going quickly, with Matt Ryan finding Calvin Ridley on an 18-yard pass on 2nd down. Freeman then had a nice 10-yard run to pick up another first down after the teams traded penalties. Falcons got to the 40-yard line before stalling out, as Ryan overthrew Russell Gage on 3rd and 6 under significant pressure.
Falcons WR Christian Blake appeared to make an awesome special teams play on the ensuing punt, but Carolina challenged and ended up getting the ball at the 20. The Falcons defense held firm, with Grady Jarrett stuffing the Panthers on 3rd down to force a 3-and-out.
Ryan got the next drive going with a 14-yard pass to Rusell Gage, which officially moved him past 50,000 passing yards. Congrats to Ryan! Freeman had an awesome downfield run that was negated by holding on Christian Blake, but Brian Hill managed to get the first down anyway on the next play. After getting sacked on 2nd down, Ryan completed passes to Calvin Ridley and Devonta Freeman to extend the drive. The drive stalled after two runs for minimal gain and a very aggressive defensive play by the Panthers. Younghoe Koo hit the 37-yard field goal and the Falcons took a 3-0 lead.
The Falcons defense struggled on the next drive, with the Panthers driving down the field with very little resistance. After a QB run by Kyle Allen, the first quarter ended with Carolina at the Atlanta 28-yard line.
Carolina failed the convert on third down, which led to a successful FG attempt by kicker Joey Slye. The game was tied at 3-3.
Falcons got going quickly once again with a 14-yard pass to Austin Hooper. Freeman continued running well, picking up chunk yardage on back-to-back plays. However, the Falcons were stuffed on two consecutive plays after getting to 2nd-and-2 and were forced to punt.
The Falcons defense had two near-picks on the next series for the Panthers, but couldn’t come away with either. De’Vondre Campbell sacked Kyle Allen on 3rd down to force a Carolina punt.
This is going to sound familiar, but the Falcons once again got their drive going with a first-down pass to Austin Hooper. On the next play, Ryan hit Julio Jones on a long pass to get the ball all the way down to the Carolina 18-yard line. On 3rd and 7, Ryan found Calvin Ridley for the 15-yard TD. After Koo’s successful XP, the Falcons took a 10-3 lead.
Atlanta’s defense struggled to open the next series, allowing back-to-back catches for first downs. Kyle Allen tried to hit TE Ian Thomas on a downfield play, but the ball was deflected by De’Vondre Campbell and intercepted by Damontae Kazee. Kazee returned the ball to the Atlanta 41-yard line.
The Falcons offense looked to be putting together another great drive, but a potential TD pass to Julio Jones was overthrown. Atlanta failed to move the ball after that, and were forced to punt it away.
Carolina got the ball and promptly began stringing together a good drive of their own. Allen completed a deep pass to WR D.J. Moore despite excellent coverage by CB Isaiah Oliver. Atlanta managed to get the Panthers to 3rd and 2, but couldn’t stop McCaffrey. McCaffrey got the ball to the 2-yard line to bring up 2nd and goal, and Kyle Allen hit Ian Thomas for a TD. Panthers tied up the game at 10-10.
The Falcons had about a minute left after receiving the ball. A nice diving sideline grab by Calvin Ridley got things going down the field, and was followed up by another Ridley catch to keep the chains moving. Falcons got into field goal range on a catch by Justin Hardy, and Ryan managed to get one final play off—a near TD to Ridley—before the FG attempt by Koo. The kick was good, and the Falcons took a 13-10 lead into halftime.
Curtis Samuel got yet another handoff to start of the third quarter, and he made the most of it by picking up a first down. Then Kyle Allen found Ian Thomas for another first down, as he beat De’Vondre Campbell across the field. Vic Beasley took care of that nonsense in short order, though, sacking Allen from behind, forcing the fumble, and earning the team another shot on offense after Tyeler Davison scooped up it up.
The Falcons started things off with a run up the middle to Devonta Freeman, who got three on the carry. Then Matt Ryan found Julio Jones, with Julio rumbling for several more yards and the easy first down. Another short Free run pick up a couple more yards, and another Julio sideline grab got the first down. Freeman had absolutely nowhere to go on his next carry, but a defensive offside gave the Falcons 1st and 5. Freeman took advantage on the next run, with brilliant blocking upfront giving him a chance to get untouched to the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Falcons 20 - Panthers 10
The Panthers wanted to get on the board again and keep this one close. Christian McCaffrey’s first carry didn’t accomplish that, but he did get five yards. A pitch got him close to another five, just shy of the first down marker. Kyle Allen faked the handoff and rolled out, scrambling for an easy first down. Curtis Samuel got a sideline grab against Kendall Sheffield for another easy first down. The Panthers tried more trickery that ended in a pitch to D.J. Moore, but Foye Oluokun saw through it and got him for no gain. Then Deion Jones got McCaffrey down for a short gain, and Kyle Allen couldn’t find Samuel downfield. Michael Palardy’s punt went out of bounds a little behind the 10.
Brian Hill’s first down run didn’t go anywhere and Ryan missed Julio on secnod down, but more than made up for it with a 93 yard touchdown to Olamide Zaccheaus, finding the wide open rookie over the middle and letting Zaccheaus’s jets do the rest of the work.
Falcons 27 - Panthers 10
The Falcons immediately got the ball back as the team forced a fumble on the kickoff and Younghoe Koo recovered it.
The Falcons weren’t able to do much more than run a couple of times with Freeman and miss a pass in the end zone, but Younghoe Koo’s 29 yard field goal extended the lead.
Falcons 30 - Panthers 10
The next kickoff saw returner Greg Dortch fumble yet again, but the Panthers kept the ball. Kyle Allen’s first pass of the drive went incomplete, but he followed that up with a first down pass to D.J. Moore. Takk McKinley sacked Allen for an eight yard loss on the next play and Allen missed downfield on the next, and an eight yard gain wasn’t enough to keep Carolina from punting again.
The Falcons gave the ball to Qadree Ollison on first down and he didn’t pick up much. Ryan missed Zaccheaus thanks to an Eric Reid tip on second down, and had to throw the ball away on third down. That brought Ryan Allen out to punt.
The Panthers saw Allen sacked again by Beasley, who forced a fumble Carolina recovered, and then couldn’t do much on second down. On third down, Allen slung on the run and was picked off by Damontae Kazee, his second of the game. At this point, Carolina was feeling quite blue.
The Falcons weren’t able to get a first down despite two consecutive throws to Julio Jones, but scramblin’ Matt Ryan took care of that on third down. Qadree Ollison picked up a few more yards, but ultimately the Falcons settled for a 50 yard Younghoe Koo kick, which he converted despite hitting the bar.
Falcons 33 - Panthers 10
The Panthers got a first down off a toss to Curtis Samuel and then picked up six more. Another nice throw to Christian McCaffrey picked up another first down. A deep strike by Allen to D.J. Moore didn’t convert, but pass interference on Isaiah Oliver did just about the same thing in the end. A holding call negated a touchdown pass to Jairus Wright on the next play. A small run gain followed, with Ricardo Allen making a nice open field tackle on McCaffrey to limit the damage. Takk got his second sack of the game on third down, and the Panthers settled for a 42 yard field goal try that Joey Slye made.
Falcons 33 - Panthers 13
Brian Hill picked up seven on his first carry of the drive, but missed Luke Stocker (who sort of tossed it away after getting his hands on it) on seond down and had to call a timeout on third down. Hill was able to put up the first down and then some, but on the next drive he was dropped for a loss. He made up for it on the very next carry, as thanks to nice blocking and churning legs he picked up a ton of yards and almost scored a touchdown. On the next play, he did it, clearing the plane and capping off a productive Falcons drive.
Falcons 40 - Panthers 13
The Panthers got to rolling in garbage time, picking up multiple first downs and knocking Isaiah Oliver out of the game. Kyle Allen was able to rumble for a final first down to put the team in the red zone, but the Panthers just keep going until Christian McCaffrey brought them to the one yard line. This is a short summation of the drive, but hell, the game was well out of reach at this point. Allen punched it in from there to at least make the score look more respectable.
Falcons 40 - Panthers 20
The Falcons put Matt Schaub in the game and ran out the clock. So ended a fun day.