That game was ... interesting.
Because the Falcons manage to flash elite play making ability every once in a while, it’s hard to comprehend just how they got to 2-6. They really do appear to be a better football team than their record would suggest. But their record is their record, and this is still a lost season. It’s tough to see them play well and know things could’ve turned out differently, but that’s just life as a football fan, isn’t it?
Let’s take a look at some of the best and worst individual performances from Thursday night’s game.
3 Falcons Up
Jarrett is so dominant that he frequently appears to be playing against high school players, and last night was no exception. He generated pressure and run stuffed all night, earning the Falcons’ highest defensive grade from Pro Football Focus (88.6). He also earned the Falcons’ highest defensive grade from Pro Football Focus (85.2) during the Panthers loss earlier this month. In short, the Panthers don’t have an answer for Jarrett. Dave Choate summed it up eloquently with this tweet last night.
Stopping Grady Jarrett is like stopping a lion made of steel. Holding back the rest of this defense is like holding back a kitten made of cotton— The Falcoholic (@TheFalcoholic) October 30, 2020
Conditions were less than ideal last night, but Koo converted all 4 of his field goal attempts, racking up 13 points for the Falcons. He did miss a PAT, but that can be overlooked, because he’s now converted 19 of 20 field goal attempts this season, including both attempts over 50 yards.
Julio came out swinging last night, making the Panthers defense look downright silly during the Falcons’ first offensive drive. Over the first 34 seconds of the game (the Falcons’ first and second offensive plays), he nabbed 24 and 28 yard receptions. He earned the Falcons’ highest offensive grade from Pro Football Focus last night (87.3) as well.
3 Falcons Down
The Falcons handed Fowler a 3-year contract worth $48 million in March, thinking he could infuse the defensive front with some much needed pass rushing prowess. To be fair, his 11.5 sacks in 2019 did inspire a lot of confidence in his ability going forward. But Fowler has only managed to sack a quarterback twice in a Falcons uniform. Last night, when he couldn’t break free from his blocker, he resorted to kicking Teddy Bridgewater, which was equal parts dirty and unnecessary. Fowler also drew an defensive offside penalty during the Panthers’ final offensive drive. Simply stated, Fowler doesn’t appear to be the player the Falcons hoped he could be. Unfortunately, his cap hit jumps from $6.6 million this year to $18.6 million next year. If that doesn’t doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, nothing will.
McGary has had the kind of sophomore campaign we all hoped he would, meeting and exceeding expectations. But as young players are apt to do, he took some abuse last night. Brian Burns’ spin move threw him for a loop and he was hit with a false start penalty during the Falcons’ second offensive drive. Given that McGary gave up 13 sacks last year but has only given up 3 sacks through 8 games, I’m not complaining. But he’s still learning.
Terrell has been on a role of late, but last night was not his best performance. He had an ugly missed tackle of Robby Anderson during the first half and he gave up a 42-yard reception to D.J. Moore on 3rd and 18 during the Vikings’ final offensive drive. A rookie is supposed to have experience some growing pains; we saw that from Terrell last night.