Atlanta’s performance on Sunday was at times downright spooky, but the Falcons emerged with a 37-34 overtime victory against the Caroline Panthers. The win gives Atlanta sole possession of first place in the NFC South coming out of Week 8, but it’s clear there is still some needed improvement if this team is actually going to claim the division.
That’s a problem for the future, however. On this All Hallows’ Eve, we’re here to hand out some candy accolades and ghoulish admonishments.
Did you notice the Halloween costume Koo wore yesterday during the game? He dressed up as a real-life superhero and quite literally saved the day for Atlanta. The undisputed fan favorite made all three of his field goals, including the 41-yard field goal to win the game in overtime, and all four extra-point attempts. Koo’s consistency has saved the Falcons at various points over the last few years, and it’s abundantly clear just how much faith this team has in their kicker.
“I can’t explain how valuable he is to this team,” Marcus Mariota said after the game. “He’s got such a cool demeanor. He goes about his business the right way. He’s always working hard, so it’s no surprise to me when things get down to the wire that he makes these kicks.”
Like an unseen shadow monster who pops out of nowhere at exactly the right moment—or wrong moment, if you’re the Panthers—Carter made the play of the game for Atlanta just before halftime. Caught in the middle ground of a screen play, Carter batted PJ Walker’s attempted pass, corralled it and then glided 28 yards in the opposite direction for his second touchdown of the season.
The 6-foot-5, 252-pound edge rusher has been a welcome addition to the Falcons’ defense this season. He’s got the length and athleticism to haunt opposing linemen, but it’s his play-to-play awareness and intelligence that has really flashed in his first year with this team.
Huntley showed up to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday with a hard hat in one hand and his lunch pail in the other. In other words, he was ready to go to work.
His 30-yard scamper in the fourth quarter was a big splash play, but Huntley’s other efforts were gritty and hard-nosed. He shouldered the bulk of the load out of the backfield, carrying the ball 16 times for 91 yards. It was Tyler Allgeier who got the touchdown, scoring on a 25-yard reception, but Huntley’s workman-like production makes him a perfect fit for this team.
As tantalizing as one of those 12-foot skeletons one may find at The Home Depot, Franks has not yet lived up to the training camp hype he generated. Franks was a heavily utilized gadget player throughout training camp, but he’s not capitalized on any of the chances he’s had in games this season and a role for him has not yet really materialized.
Franks played five snaps on offense and 18 on special teams, and was also flagged for a personal foul on a kickoff in the fourth quarter that aided a Panthers’ scoring drive. He might have the potential to tower over the game like one of those skeletons, but thus far he’s more closely resembled a ghost.
At the start of the season it felt as though Khardarel Hodge could emerge as a bit of a sidekick to Kyle Pitts and Drake London as a receiving option. He had five receptions for 95 yards over the first two games and added three catches for 33 yards in Week 5 against Tampa Bay. Outside of those three outings, however, Hodge has been blanked.
It’s not like Atlanta has the volume to sustain a large number of productive receivers, but Hodge played only three offensive snaps and has become something of an Invisible Man.
The Run Defense
D’onta Foreman was the boogeyman for the Falcons’ run defense. Deployed in workhorse fashion in light of Christian McCaffrey’s trade and Chuba Hubbard’s injury, Foreman carried the ball 26 times for 118 yards and three touchdowns. He was particularly effective on runs between the guards against Atlanta, which has been an issue at times this year.
By and large, the Falcons have been solid on the ground this year. They held Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Cincinnati under 100 yards on the ground, but that effort didn’t continue on Sunday – and it was scary.