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Falcons 16, Panthers 23: Another dismal performance highlights complete dysfunction

The first 0-5 start for Atlanta since 1997 could finally spur organizational changes.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons desperately needed to win this game to preserve their microscopic hopes to save this season, and possibly head coach Dan Quinn. The Panthers, on the other hand, are in rebuild mode and their 2-2 record is somewhat surprising to casual observers. With so much on the line for Atlanta, read on to find out how it unfolded.

First quarter

The Falcons win the toss and defer, so the Panthers offense takes the field first. Starting from their 23, the Carolina offense starts with a 12 yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Robby Anderson. After D.J. Moore takes a reception for 10 and Mike Davis gains 7 up the middle and Bridgewater is forced to throw it away, on 3rd and 3 Carolina’s drive stalls after Grady Jarrett pressures Bridgewater up the middle. Panthers punt.

The Falcons start their first offensive drive from their 8 with a pass to Todd Gurley from Matt Ryan for a gain of 4. A short pass to Luke Stocker sets up 3rd and 4, where Ryan connects with Olamide Zaccheus for a big gain and the first. After a defensive encroachment penalty, on 1st and 5 Gurley runs it wide for a nice 12 yard gain and another first. After he picks up another 8 yards on the ground, and Ryan can’t hit Zaccheus on the slant, on 3rd and 2 Ryan pitches it to Brian Hill who takes it wide for 7 yards and the first down. An incomplete pass is followed by a short pass to Jaeden Graham to setup 3rd and 3. Todd Gurley then takes the 3rd down handoff for an explosive run for 35 yards and the touchdown.

Falcons 7, Panthers 0

The Panthers start from their 16 with a run by Curtis Samuel for 4 yards. After a Mike Davis is stopped a couple of yards short, on 3rd and 2 Bridgewater uses an endless pocket to complete the pass to Samuel for the first. After a first down pass and a pass to Mike Davis gains 7, on 2nd and 3 Foye Oluokun blows up the run play for a 3 yard loss. On 3rd and 6, the Falcons blitz but Bridgewater completes the quick pass to Samuel for the first. After a short pass is defended aggressively and Teddy throws incomplete on 2nd, on 3rd and 10 (after a false start penalty) the Panthers get the first after Bridgewater finds Samuel yet again. Davis picks up 7 on the ground and Keanu Neal stops a run for a 1 yard loss, on 3rd and 4 Kendall Sheffield bats away the pass intended for Robby Anderson. The Panthers punch in the field goal.

Falcons 7, Panthers 3

The Falcons start from their 25 with Calvin Ridley’s first catch for 8 yards. Todd Gurley runs wide to pick up 5 and another first down as the quarter comes to an end.

Falcons 7, Panthers 3

Second quarter

After a TE screen loses a yard and Russell Gage drops the easy first down pass, on 3rd and 11 Ryan throws to Gurley, but the ball goes through his hands. The Falcons are forced to punt.

The Panthers drive starts from their 27 with a quick pass to Samuel that Isaiah Oliver defends well for a 1 yard loss. Bridgewater then drops a beautiful pass down the left sideline into the hands of Anderson over solid coverage by Sheffield. Davis runs for 4 yards and Bridgewater finds Anderson on the slant for a big gain and the first. After Samuel rushes for 3 yards and Anderson picks up 1 on excellent coverage by Foye, on 3rd and 6 Bridgewater scrambles but can’t pick up the first. Joey Slye comes on and punches in the 39 yard field goal.

Falcons 7, Panthers 6

Starting from their 23, Brian Hill runs for a nice 7 yard gain, but a holding penalty brings it back. On 1st and 20, Ryan connects with Ridley who picks up 20 and the first down. The first down screen to Hill picks up 6 and he runs it up the middle to pick up the first. After a run by Hill for 4 yards, Ryan is pressured immediately on an unblocked defender and fumbles it but the Falcons recover. On 3rd and 27, Ryan dumps it off to Hill but they only pick up a few. Atlanta has to punt.

After great special teams coverage on a great punt, the Panthers drive starts on their own 12 with a pass to Pharoh Cooper for 12 yards and the first down. Mike Davis runs for 14 yards and the first and again for another 6 yards. After a blitz on 2nd down and pressure by Dante Fowler Jr. forces a throw away, on 3rd and 4 Bridgewater connects with D.J. Moore who outruns Isaiah Oliver and the entire Atlanta secondary for the go ahead 57-yard touchdown.

Falcons 7, Panthers 13

Ryan starts the drive with a short pass to Gurley that picks up 4. Russell Gage then picks up the first down on the pass from Ryan. After the two minute warning, Ryan is nearly picked off on first down and after Ryan is hammered on 2nd down, on 3rd and 10 Ryan is sacked as he can’t find an open receiver. Horrifyingly bad series for Atlanta.

Starting on their 11 after a great punt, the Panthers start with an incomplete pass on first down. However, a hit on Anderson by Oluokun gives the Panthers 15 yards on the penalty and the first. A short pass to Davis gains 3 and the next pass to Anderson picks up the first. Bridgewater finds Moore for another 11 yard gain and the first followed by a screen to Davis that he takes for 22 yards and another first. After an overthrown deep ball on first down, Bridgewater connects with Anderson down the right side for the big gain to set up first and goal. After a nice run by Curtis Samuel puts them on the 2 yard line, Bridgewater finds Mike Davis for the 3 yard touchdown pass and the big lead.

Falcons 7, Panthers 20

Third quarter

After the return by Brandon Powell to the 22, the Falcons offense gets a 5-yard gift on defensive encroachment. They use that 1st and 5 by handing off to Gurley who evades a tackle and picks up 10 and the first. He then takes the next handoff for a big 24yard gain on the ground. The pitch to the right for Gurley goes for 12 yards and yet another first. After Ito Smith carries for 1, and Calvin Ridley drops an easy short pass, on 3rd and 9 Ryan can’t connect with Hurst after being pressured. Younghoe Koo comes on for the 46 yard field goal and nails it.

Falcons 10, Panthers 20

Starting from their own 20, the Panthers start with a short throw to Davis for 1 yard. Davis carries it for 1 yard, but offensive holding pulls it back. On 2nd and 19, Bridgewater hits Anderson for the 17 yard gain to setup 3rd and 2. On the money down, D.J. Moore catches the slant for a big 14 yard gain and the first. After Mike Davis carries half the Falcons defense for a 7 yard run, he catches the short pass to pick up the first. He picks up another 6 yards because the Atlanta defense is made of popsicle sticks. After Trenton Cannon picks up just 2 yards, on 3rd and 2 Ricardo Allen takes down Mike Davis short of the conversion to force the fourth down. After a delay of game, the Panthers punt.

After the touchback, Todd Gurley gets the pitch and takes it for 3 yards. He takes the short pass for a first down on the next play. After Gurley runs for no gain, Ryan hits Ridley for a nice sideline catch for the first down. After a short catch by Ridley, and a personal foul penalty on Jake Matthews pulls it back, on 2nd and 21 they run it for 5 yards. Of. Course. On 3rd and 16, Ryan throws a beautiful pass to Ridley that picks up 26 and the first down. After Gurley bounces outside and picks up 4, and Ryan throws it away on a blown up shuffle pass, on 3rd and 6 Ryan again connects with Ridley for another first down conversion. From the Carolina 15, on 1st and 10 Todd Gurley picks up 2 yards and the third quarter comes to an end.

Falcons 10, Panthers 20

Fourth quarter

On 2nd and 8, Ryan is pressured and can’t connect with Hurst on the pass in the end zone. On 3rd and 8, Ryan throws into the ground in front of Zaccheus. Koe comes on and hits the 31 yard field goal.

Falcons 13, Panthers 20

From their 25, the Panthers offense starts with an endless pocket and a batted ball for an incompletion. After Ian Thomas can’t pull it in on 2nd, on 3rd and 10 Atlanta holds tight as the blitz forces a poor throw from Teddy to Anderson. Falcons force the 3 and out.

The Falcons start with a nice play action pass to Ridley for 26 yards. Brian Hill carries defenders for a 7 yard gain and immediately erupts again up the middle for a nice 8 yard gain. Hill powers it for another 6 yards on the ground and on 2nd and 4, Todd Gurley drives it for 3 yards. On 3rd and 1, Keith Smith picks up the tough yard for the conversion. The shuffle pass to Gurley picks up another 10 to put Atlanta on the Carolina 11. After Gurley falls forward for a 2 yard gain, he carries it again to setup 3rd and 4. On 3rd down, Matt Ryan is intercepted in the end zone targeting Russell Gage.

Carolina takes over on their 20 with a run for a 1 yard loss by Davis. After a quick pass to Anderson picks up 10, on 3rd and 1 Curtis Samuel carries the rock for the massive gain and the first down. After the pitch to Anderson picks up a few, Davis gets the carry to pick up the first down. Another run by Davis for 9 yards is followed by yet another first down run. He runs again for 12 yards and still another first down. Rinse and repeat as Carolina continues to burn the clock. After a long, prolonged drive, they punch in a short field goal to extend their lead.

Falcons 13, Panthers 23

With a little over a minute left, Ryan connects with Hurst for 9. After a first down throw to Gage, and an incomplete pass to Ridley, he hits Ridley for the deep pass and the first down. Younghoe Koo comes on and punches in the long field goal.

Falcons 16, Panthers 23

The Falcons attempt the onside kick with 4 seconds left in the game and the Panthers recover. Game over.

Final: Falcons 16, Panthers 23