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Falcons vs. Panthers: Hat tips & head-scratchers

The Falcons seem to be figuring things out at the right time.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Hat tips

First-half defense

As impressive of a first half that the Falcons have put together on defense this entire season. Sure, they surrendered a touchdown to quarterback Cam Newton on Carolina’s opening drive, but that was followed up by two punts and two picks by the Atlanta defense.

The Falcons are, somehow, still in the playoff hunt, and it seems like they’re finally starting to get some things figured out — at precisely the right time. They’ll need consistent defensive performances the rest of the way to finagle their way into the playoffs.

Ground game rollin’

On the topic of figuring things out: the ground attack seems to have ::ahem:: found its footing. Sunday’s win against the Panthers featured the third-straight 100-yard rushing performance, with both Cordarrelle Patterson and Mike Davis making noteworthy contributions.

Davis has been especially solid of late, and Patterson has been otherworldly all season long.

MIssing its top wide receiver in Calvin Ridley, the Atlanta offense has been forced to jigsaw puzzle its gameplan week-to-week to see what works — and what doesn’t. They’ve relied heavily on the rushing attack in recent weeks, and it’s been beneficial to the offense as a whole.

Mykal Walker snares the pick-six

One of the two aforementioned interceptions in the opening half, linebacker Mykal Walker jumped quarterback Cam Newton’s route in the second quarter, securing the football and scampering home for the score to break the then-tie.

In the midst of his sophomore campaign, it was the first interception and touchdown of his young career. Although he only tallied five snaps in this contest, we’re all aboard the Give-Mykal-Walker-More-Playing-Time Train.

Offensive line play

I’m hesitant to lend plaudits to a unit that’s been shaky for the majority of the season, but hey — credit where it’s due. The offensive line had a disastrous game against Tampa Bay last week, and they rebounded in notable fashion by only allowing five hurries and not surrendering a sack.

Keep it up in crunch time.

Head-scratchers

Qadree Ollison loses the handle

The Falcons were cruising through most of this contest, and then came the fourth quarter, and the nerves, and ... the fumble. With 4:54 remaining in the game, Ollison lost the handle on the football and gifted the Panthers a bit of hope to stage a comeback. They promptly capitalized with a P.J. Walker toss to Robbie Anderson to move the score to 21-29, one which would — mercifully — prove the final.

We’ve all witnessed The Falconing and are familiar with the way it begins. This felt like one of those moments, but luckily Atlanta was able to secure the win.

With the release of running back Wayne Gallman, the Falcons are expressing confidence in Qadree Ollison as a contributor on the ground. Mistakes in critical moments do not reward it.