The environment was soggy and rain and wind swirled through Bank of America Stadium. Yet, the cloudy days for the Atlanta Falcons showed a little brightness as the Falcons went on the road and earned a 25-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night. It was not pretty by any means but to be honest, it did not have to be.
At the end of the night, the Falcons got the job done and picked up their second win of the season. Before we move on to their next encounter which is against the Denver Broncos, here are a few takeaways from their week eight win.
The defense answered the call
In week seven, the Falcons defense was forced to stand tall against Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions to preserve a win. As we know by now, they did not and the Falcons suffered another last second, disappointing defeat. My main conclusion from that Detroit game was that the defense needs to grow up at some point in life and make plays for an offense that quite often sets the team up for victory.
Lo and behold, as I always say, football writes its own script at times. The Falcons defense were staring at an eight point lead late in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to seal a possible win, this time on the road. Regardless how many games is played or how many leads are nursed by the offense, a defense can never really avoid this particular circumstance. It’s either make the stop or go home with a loss. This time around, the Falcons made the necessary plays late to aid the offense and walk out of Charlotte, North Carolina as winners.
Aggressiveness in defensive calls
Since the Falcons have moved on from Dan Quinn as head coach, the defense has adjusted things a bit and have played better football overall as of late. Part of that reason is the rise of blitz packages being utilized by the Falcons. After the Falcons win over Carolina, the Falcons found themselves seventh in the NFL in defensive blitz calls with 90.
It was an aspect that was slowly brought along as the season progressed but over the past few weeks, you can tell how Raheem Morris and the defensive staff are allowing the Falcons speed on defense to be utilized in this manner. Something many, including myself, have wanted for quite some time.
If anyone questioned the health of Julio Jones prior to kickoff on Thursday, those questions were quickly dashed on the very first drive of the game. Once again, Jones showed why he is arguably the most dangerous receiver in the league. On just seven receptions, Jones posted 137 yards, which averages out to 19.5 yards per catch.
Over the course of his career, Jones has 1,527 yards against the Carolina Panthers, good for an average of 95.4 yards per game. Jones was not on the field in the first matchup in Atlanta a few weeks back and it was interesting to see how the Panthers were attempting to defend him. Let’s just say that the plan that was incorporated wasn’t quite working.
Trade paying off
The trade for former first rounder Hayden Hurst was met with a boatload of questions and second guessing. So far, Hurst has proven to be a key weapon in the Falcons offense thanks to his unique athleticism and solid catching ability. On the season, Hurst has already matched his season totals from 2019 in receptions (30), yards (349), yards per catch (11.6), and has one more touchdown than his last season total (3 to 2). He has also exceeded his total targets on the season (46 to 39). There are still a few things here and there I would like to see from Hurst going forward, mainly in his usefulness down the field compared to laterally. But as of now, Hurst is giving the Falcons offense a particular dynamic that was not always present with last year’s starter, Austin Hooper.