This week’s Hat tips & head-scratchers examines the moments that made it happen.
Hayden Hurst’s shoe top grab
Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst was originally drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the catch he made off of his shoelaces on Thursday night had shades of an infielder snagging an in-between hop. Hurst has seemingly been good for at least one eye-popping catch a game in recent weeks, and his ability to come back for the low football and secure the grab deserves a tip o’ the hat.
Keanu Neal lays the wood
It was a vintage night for safety Keanu Neal, and his stick on Panthers running back Mike Davis to force a fumble in the third quarter was one of his best plays in years. It was a punishing hit when Atlanta needed it most, and although the refs would deem it an incomplete pass, it’s great to see Keanu Neal healthy and playing the physical game of football that led to Atlanta to draft him in 2016.
Matt Ryan’s scrambles
Matt Ryan didn’t have his best night in the air, but he more than made up for it on the ground. It was a busy night for The Falcoholic’s official Twitter account, as Ryan cranked the Scramble Machine up to 11 and ripped the knobs off. He regularly made plays with his feet, but none was more impressive than his 13-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson seals it
Reserve cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson has looked awfully impressive when forced onto the field, and no play loomed larger than his game-winning interception. With the Panthers down 25-17 but threatening in the red zone, Wreh-Wilson read Teddy Bridgewater perfectly and secured a leaping interception to seal the game for Atlanta.
Not going for it on the opening drive
Atlanta entered this contest at an abysmal 1-6, so it made little sense to opt for the field goal on the opening offensive drive — and burning a timeout in the process. Raheem Morris was raked over the coals for his decision against kicking the potential game-winner last week against the Lions, and that lingering narrative may have contributed to the field goal here.
Dante Fowler’s dirty play
This was inexcusable. Unable to get proper pressure on Teddy Bridgewater, defensive end Dante Fowler instead decided to trip up the Carolina quarterback. As Bridgewater went down, Charles Harris put the exclamation point on the awful sequence by throwing a hit on Bridgewater’s upper body. The latter hit did not appear intentional, but Harris was ejected for it nonetheless.
I’m all for the Falcons playing physical, but this was egregious.
Todd Gurley runs out of bounds
With three minutes left in the game and Atlanta leading and looking to burn out the lock, Todd Gurley made the inexplicable choice to take the 3rd&14 toss around the left end and out of bounds. Gurley’s had a nose for the end zone all season long, but his decision making has certainly been curious.