All the experts said Carolina would easily win. Why even play this game some thought? Things started off how many thought, with Cam Newton leading the Panthers down the field for a touchdown on their first possession of the game. Newton cradled the ball and yelled at the crowd, “This is my city!” After beating the Falcons 38-0 two weeks beforehand and being the frontrunner for MVP, Newton felt on top of the world. Would things ever change, though, in this matchup.
Matt Ryan actually played great today. Being 23/30 for 306 yards and one touchdown was exactly what the Falcons needed out of him. He also did not throw an interception, which was a big part of the reason Atlanta won time of possession by more than ten minutes. He did not force throws that were not there, and was a great game-manager today. His receivers were a key reason why he played so successfully.
Julio Jones and Roddy White had incredible games today. White had five receptions for 67 yards, but it felt as White made any clutch catch for Ryan. On the first possession on third-and-15 for Atlanta, they could not complete the first down. But Charles Tillman drew a personal foul after the play, hitting White while he was down that made a difference. White caught posts and slants from Ryan, and played like he did years ago.
Julio Jones on the other hand proved everyone why he is the best receiver in this league. Antonio Brown and him are in one class together, and it is not even close. The star reciever had 9 catches for 178 yards, with a touchdown. He torched Josh Norman when Norman covered him, and torched the Panthers zone defense. Jones caught an incredible 70-yard touchdown, jumping over two Carolina defenders for the score. You can see the play below.
— NFL (@NFL) December 27, 2015
Cam Newton did not play a big role in this game. Other than the first series and his 3rd-and-6 run to get an incredible first down, Dan Quinn’s defense found ways to make him uncomfortable. Vic Beasley had a break out game, even though the stat sheet doesn’t show it. He pressured Newton a numerous amount of times, striping him on Carolina’s last series to seal the game. Beasley also hit Newton’s hand on a key third-down conversion that put Carolina in a difficult fourth-down that they did not convert. The defense as a unit made some mistakes, but they rose to the occasions in key situations.
I have no idea if Atlanta is in playoff contention or not. Even if they aren’t, it still is an amazing feeling dethroning the undefeated Panthers. Carolina is a great team, but they got handled today in a game that could have been won by more than seven points. Being humiliated 38-0 two weeks before, the Falcons felt they had a lot to prove to their city. They made the city of Atlanta proud, and it is a hell of a way to go into the offseason.