NFC South contests are usually a little heated and contain their fair share of hard hits, trash talk and a little extra curricular activity after the whistle. In this latest affair between divisional foes Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers, all of those familiar facets were witnessed, along with a little blood and sweat.
Unfortunately, the Falcons were on the losing end of this latest matchup with the Panthers, 19-13. Here are five things we learned as the Falcons fell to 3-4 on the season.
#1: Football players are human
Prior to the game, we learned that veteran wide receiver Calvin Ridley was ruled inactive due to a personal matter. At this point, nothing but speculation has come out surrounding what that personal matter is, but a postgame post by Ridley told us the receiver is looking to take care of his mental wellbeing.
Whatever Ridley is combating, I wish him nothing but the best. Mental health struggles are real and some prefer to mask them instead of addressing them, which is not a healthy approach. I hope Ridley takes the necessary time needed to get in a better mental state. Football will always be around when he is ready for it, and Matt Ryan and others around the game have indicated their support for Ridley, who I hope takes the time to focus on his well-being.
#2: Coaching growing pains
During the Falcons 2-game win streak prior to Sunday, head coach Arthur Smith was able to flex his coaching muscle a little with impressive play calling and in-game management. However, those aspects were missing in action against Carolina.
In particular, a mishandled drive within the last two minutes of the first half was one item that stood out, as the Falcons showed little urgency and gave the ball back to Carolina with enough time to score. The decision to sit a perceived healthy running back in Wayne Gallman who may have been able to contribute and give a roster spot to a rookie third string quarterback/tight end was also a head-scratcher.
So far this season, Smith has shown potential that he can grow into a very solid head coach over time. But on Sunday, a few decisions he made both in-game and with personnel left many fans confused, and hopefully we’ll see fewer of those going forward.
#3: Ryan is tough as nails
Fourteen seasons in the NFL with barely a handful of games missed shows the toughness and durability of veteran quarterback Matt Ryan on its own. During the first half of Sunday’s contest, Ryan gave us a jarring example of that toughness.
After getting his left hand stepped on by a Panthers defender, Ryan was seen bleeding profusely, with his towel showcasing more of a red hue than the traditional white. It was a fitting image for Halloween, but also a reminder that Ryan’s toughness can’t be questioned, as he stood in and continued to move the team downfield before an interception ended the drive.
#4: Laying the wood
It wasn’t a glorious day overall for the Falcons defense, but the physicality stood out. Throughout the contest, the Falcons defense cranked up the switch a little on the physicality dial. Panthers receiver Robby Anderson found himself looking at the stadium lights midway through the third quarter after getting blasted by safety Erik Harris.
Later in the fourth quarter, linebacker Foye Oluokun collided with Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold and sent the quarterback to the sideline on a hard, clean hit. For a brief shining moment, it was a welcome sight seeing the defense lay out opponents left and right. Now they just need to bring that energy and ensure they bring players down on a more regular basis.
#5: Another day at the office for 84
One of the few bright spots on the day just so happened to be from someone who has been a consistent bright spot for the Falcons on the season. Cordarrelle Patterson found ways to chip in as he normally does, with 72 total yards from scrimmage and another touchdown. By this point of the season, Patterson has already reached career-highs in total offensive touches (96) and touchdowns scored (7).
Credit should definitely be given to Smith for understanding the assignment and using Patterson in such a productive way, and Patterson will continue to be one of this offense’s featured weapons.