I feared the Falcons starting slow in this one, and unfortunately, that’s exactly what they did. The problem was that the slow start became a slow, unsteady game for Atlanta, one that Carolina threatened to take over in the second half when things were tied.
In years past, that might have been the case. This season, the Falcons were just getting going, as they overcame numerous miscues and frustrating timidity on offense to turn up the intensity about midway through the third quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points and snuffing the Carolina offense’s hopes and dreams en route to a major lead.
It was a game highlighted by a brilliant Falcons rushing attack—Tyler Allgeier and Bijan Robinson combined for nearly 130 yards and two touchdowns on a tidy 24 carries—and a defense that found its footing after some early frustration and came up with two interceptions from Jessie Bates and some nice stops to smother the Panthers passing attack. The end result was a double digit win, something that was rare a year ago, and the sense that the Falcons came well short of playing up to their considerable potential while easily earning the victory once they got rolling.
The bright note is that: This team is more talented and can beat less talented teams handily even while struggling. The sour note is this: The Falcons have to play better early on or they’re in danger of falling behind against better teams. Notes aside, seeing the Falcons earn their first Week 1 win since 2017 was sweet and deserves all the celebration and love we’re going to give it. We just know that they can and have to play better to earn wins going forward, as they can’t always count on Bates playing the role of a superhero to help them earn the victory, which means a more complete team effort and a better day from the passing game. The lessons learned are easy to see, however, and the foundation solid enough to think that Atlanta can knock off the slow starts and start putting together the kind of performances we’ve longed lusted for.
Let’s get to the drive-by-drive recap of the game you just finished watching.
Brian Burns blew into the backfield and sacked Desmond Ridder on first down, forcing a fumble that was luckily recovered by Atlanta. Bijan Robinson got eight yards on his first carry, and then Ridder fumbled and recovered it on third down. Desmond Ridder’s first completed pass went to...Desmond Ridder, as he grabbed his own tipped pass out of the air for a loss. A quick, disappointing start, and the Falcons had to punt.
The Panthers were backed up owing to a penalty. Miles Sanders was tackled after four yards, but Bryce Young then got Terrace Marshall for a quick first down strike. Sanders then found a hole and picked up nearly ten yards. Another carry got the first, and then Young fumbled on first down and recovered it, losing three yards. Laviska Shenault picked up a few yards on a quick pass. Shenault then caught the third down pass and easily got the first down, picking up 14, as the Panthers continued to drive. Chuba Hubbard got a few yards and then Sanders picked up another five, getting to 3rd and 2. A third down attempt picked up one yard thanks to hesitation by Shenault, and then the Falcons viciously stuffed Hubbard on fourth down to take back over.
Tyler Allgeier’s first carry went for a first down and then some, as he left a defender on the ground and powered through contact to roll. He then picked up 21 yards to push the Falcons past midfield, picking up 40 yards on his forst two. A few more yards followed on the next play, but Ridder hesitated without a clear look and was sacked by Brian Burns and Frankie Luvu. On the next play, Ridder quickly turned to give it to Bijan Robinson, but Burns was in the backfield and smothered Robinson before he could even move. Punt.
Adam Thielen backed the team up seven yards with a penalty, and a delay of game had the Panthers all the way inside the five yard line. Sanders was swarmed after picking up a yard or two, and then Young sat back in the pocket too long, tried to throw it over the middle, and was picked off by Jessie Bates. Turnover!
Robinson got a couple of yards on first down, and then cut inside to pick up another four yards to bring the Falcons to 3rd and 4. That was the end of the first quarter.
The Falcons made it happen to kick things off, as Ridder found Robinson for a quick pickup that Robinson took the house, leaving a defender in the dust en route to the end zone. Younghoe Koo then juuuuust hit the extra point. 7-0 Falcons.
Young’s first pass was knocked away, and then a pass to Hayden Hurst was knocked away by Richie Grant. A flip to Chuba Hubbard got close but wasn’t enough to pick up the first down, and the Panthers punted.
Drake London was targeted on first down, but he dropped the pass from Ridder. On the next play, Ridder escaped pressure and began running, but didn’t get far before Luvu tackled him. The Panthers luckily were called for a 12 men on the field penalty that gave Atlanta five free yards. Ridder hit Pitts for the first down and then some, but an illegal shift penalty on Drake London erased the play and back the Falcons up. Mack Hollins then caught the third down pass just shy of the first down, and the Falcons elected to go for it...before Frank Reich threw a challenge flag to determine if it was a catch or not. It was ruled a catch, but the Falcons still punted.
Sanders was swallowed up after a couple of yards. A tricky handoff to Shenault went for a few yards and set the Panthers up with a third and short. Hayden Hurst then made the first down grab. Sanders went nowhere on his first carry, but Young hit Marshall for an easy first down. Sanders went nowhere thanks to Calais Campbell bounced him to the sideline, and then a short pass to Thielen picked up about five. A strike to Jonathan Mingo on the sideline got another first down, as Young kept the Panthers moving, and then Hubbard picked up about 13 yards on his first down carry. Hayden Hurst was wide, wide open on the next play and got Carolina well into the red zone. Sanders got a couple of yards on 1st and goal, and then Young threw a sideline dart to Hurst, who was able to stretch his arm out for the touchdown. 7-7 tie game.
Robinson picked up a first down on a first down toss play, then got three yards after running into contact early on the next play. Jonnu Smith was then called for a false start. Ridder then scrambled on the next play, but Kaleb McGary was called for holding. Now on 2nd and 23, Ridder hit Mack Hollins to pick up 11 yards. The third down play saw Ridder quickly swing it out to Robinson, but Robinson had no time and no space to work with as Troy Hill nailed him immediately. Punt.
The first down pass from Young was short of a skidding Marshall. His next pass went out of bounds, intended for Mingo. Another incomplete pass to Mingo, tightly covered by A.J. Terrell, led to a punt. Alford scooped up the punt but had nowhere to go.
Ridder spun out of a sack but couldn’t find anyone, throwing it in the dirt in the direction of Mack Hollins. Bijan Robinson picked up four yards on the next play via the ground, and then Ridder found Robinson for a quick pass that led to a first down. Unfortunately, Ridder was sacked on the very next play, losing yards trying to get away. The Falcons let the clock run out and headed into the half tied up and looking shaky.
The Panthers got the ball on their own 25. A quick pass from Young picked up two yards, and then Hubbard somehow found a hole in the middle of the line and picked up a first down. A quick sideline throw to Hayden Hurst picked up several yards, and then Sanders picked up the first down. Pressure flushed Young out of the pocket, but he found the time and space to run for a first down and then some. The Falcons ate Sanders alive on the next play, with Dee Alford coming up to help make the tackle, and then Young had to get rid of the ball in the direction of the sideline thanks to pressure. Young hit Mingo for about eight yards, setting up a fourth and a couple of yards. They wound up kicking the field goal, making it 10-7 Panthers.
A couple of yards for Allgeier, and a flag was picked up on the play. Ridder tried to fire on to Kyle Pitts on second down just over a defender, but it was a little off-target and Pitts couldn’t corral it. Allgeier caught a quick flip from Ridder and got about eight yards, but the Falcons didn’t get a first down. They decided to punt, again.
Sanders picked up close to eight yards on his first carry. Hubbard then picked up the first down and a few yards on his next carry. A few yards on a pass to Sanders followed, and then Hubbard had nowhere to go on his next carry. The third down pass from Young was intercepted again by Jessie Bates, and a penalty added 15 yards to the interception return.
Robinson got the first down carry and got a quick nine yards. Unfortunately, on the next play he simply slipped on the second down carry, losing a couple of yards. Third and 5 and the Falcons handed it to Robinson again, picking up a couple of yards and setting up a 3rd and 6 situation for the Falcons with Younghoe Koo set to kick the field goal. He drilled it, and it was a tie game. 10-10.
A first down followed by a tackle for loss by Troy Andersen and Grady Jarrett, and then a two yard pickup to make it 3rd and 9 for Carolina. Young threw it into the dirt on third down, but Tre Flowers got the pass interference call (a poor one) to give the Panthers a first down. A five yard penalty on first down backed the Panthers up, and then Sanders took it nearly ten yards before fumbling. It was called down, but Arthur Smith threw the red flag, and the call was reversed and Lorenzo Carter was credited with the recovery.
Allgeier picked up a quick first down on his first carry, passing 50 yards on the day, and then got a yard on the next carry. Ridder then threw a quick strike to Kyle Pitts, who picked up yards after the catch to get a first down. Ridder then found Allgeier for a first down, and then Bijan Robinson took a carry a very long way with some nice blocking to bring the Falcons inside the 10 yard line. That ended the quarter.
Allgeier went nowhere on first down, but on second down he bounced off more than one defender to push his way in for a touchdown...but then they called it just short before a review revealed it to be a touchdown after all. 17-10 Falcons.
Two yards for Carolina on the first play, and then a dumpoff to Miles Sanders for a near first down. The next play was a first down, but Young then missed badly down the sideline to Terrace Marshall, perhaps owing to Marshall’s route running. Six yards for Sanders on the next play, and then a false start pushed Atlanta back five yards. On third down, Troy Andersen rocketed into the backfield to take down Bryce Young for the sack. Punt.
Bijan Robinson got a first down and then some before fumbling, and then Kaleb McGary picked it up. Unfortunately, a hold erased it. Ridder didn’t see anyone open downfield and went to Allgeier for a couple of yards, but he was hit immediately. Then Allgeier had nowhere to go on the carry, and it was 3rd and 22. A quick pass to Robinson almost led to a first down, but he came up a few yards shy. The Falcons had to punt.
The return was nuts, with multiple flags on the play and the returner tackled at the one yard line. The end result was placed on the one yard line, as well, and then Young overthrew Mingo on first down. Sanders got a yard or two on the next carry, and then Young missed on third down to the sideline. Punt.
Allgeier didn’t have much room on first down, leading to a pickup of exactly zero yards. Then Ridder found Hollins for a quick first down, followed by Allgeier picking up two yards. Ridder then threw his first real deep ball of the game, going 35 yards to Kyle Pitts, who made a nice catch. Allgeier then picked up a handful of yards. Then he once again plowed into the end zone with the help of some excellent blocking, putting the Falcons up by two scores. 24-10 Falcons.
Young missed on first down, then was under pressure and had to throw it deep and missed again. On a third down blitz, Lorenzo Carter got Young and got the sack to force a fourth down. Punt.
Allgeier picked up four yards over his next two carries, and then got another yard on third down as the Falcons simply sought to run out the clock. Punt.
A missed pass followed by a first down, followed by a nine yard completion. Carolina was out of timeouts by this point, looking to get two scores with 2:20 left to go. Hubbard picked up a short first down to made it 1st and 10 at midfield with the two minute warning, and then the Panthers just kept trying with mixed results, with a couple of nice balls from Young and a couple of throws way up in the air and out of bounds. A first down ended on a punctual note with Richie Grant hitting Adam Thielen hard, followed by Young tossing one out of bounds and nothing much happening en route to 4th and 15. Young was promptly forced to scramble and was taken down, with the Falcons kneeling it out to end the game.