It was another tough pill to swallow for the Falcons on Sunday as they watched an early 10-0 lead vanish throughout the game. The offense looked as if it was going to click after the first few series of moving the ball, but it never did as they put just seven points on the board in three quarters after scoring ten in the first. The Panthers advanced to 6-3 as the Falcons dropped back to .500 at 4-4 with a 20-17 loss on the road at the Panthers.
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones each had great days for the Atlanta offense as each were in the top three, at their positions, following the one o’ clock games. The Falcons defense also played a fine game outside of a few breakdowns and some crucial penalties. But overall, once again, it looked like the coaching overruled the performances of the players on the field.
The Falcons put up ten points in the first eleven minutes of the game after a field goal on the opening drive and seven points off of a turnover. After a Johnathon Stewart fumble with three minutes to go in the first quarter, the Falcons put together what reminded fans of a typical 2016 Falcons offensive drive. They went 61 yards in 8 plays and Matt Ryan had spread the ball to four different receivers on five completed passes. After that drive though, the Falcons offense was practically nowhere to be found. The Panthers scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the second quarter and the Falcons offense, after that touchdown drive, did not score on the remaining three drives that they had in the first half.
After coming out of halftime, the Panthers scored two field goals on each of the drives they had in the third quarter. On the other hand, the Falcons punted both times in the same quarter. In the fourth quarter, time was winding down and the Falcons were still failing to move the ball. But on a fourth and seven from the Panthers 40-yard line, the Panthers failed to cover Julio Jones and left him wide open in the end zone. Unfortunately, Julio may have dropped the easiest potential touchdown pass he has had thrown to him in his entire career.
That looked like the final straw for Atlanta, but the Falcons defense, once again, stepped up and forced Carolina to punt on all three drives the Panthers had in the fourth. The Falcons then scored a touchdown on a 19 yard screen pass to Tevin Coleman with less than four minutes to go which brought the Panther lead down to three. After the Falcons D’ forced a three-and-out, Atlanta’s offense had one more shot but turned it over on downs and did not even pick up a single first down on what would be their final drive of the game.
Now lets check out some player stats from today’s loss…
ATL- Matt Ryan: 24/38 313 yards 2 TD 1 INT
CAR- Cam Newton: 13/24 137 yards 0 TD 0 INT
ATL- Devonta Freeman: 11 attempts 46 yards 0 TD
CAR- Cam Newton: 9 attempts 86 yards 1 TD
ATL- Julio Jones: 12 targets 6 catches 118 yards
CAR- Devin Funchess: 7 targets 5 catches 86 yards
ATL- Keanu Neal: 6 tackles 2 assisted tackles 2 forced fumbles
CAR- James Bradberry: 5 tackles 1 assisted tackle
Here are some miscues on why the Falcons lost in case you missed the game or forgot…
- Crucial play calling- You could probably put this at the number one reason for why the Falcons lost for every game this season, but something about this game made it even more noticeable. The Falcons had many short 3rd and 4th downs but were never able to cross the yellow line. Atlanta had a 2nd and 1, 3rd and 1, and a 4th and 1 all in the same drive, and ended up failing on all three tries. Sarkisian called up a run-run-run for all three plays and never really gained an inch. Later in the game, the Falcons had a 3rd and 1 and the play call was a Matt Ryan bootleg where he threw the ball thirty yards down-field for tight end, Austin Hooper, and that of course was incomplete as well. Also, the play before Julio Jones missed a wide open catch, the Falcons had a 3rd and 7. Then Sark had called a screen pass to Taylor Gabriel that was stopped in the backfield. And finally, on the last drive that the Falcons had, on first down the play was a screen to running back, Devonta Freeman, who got crushed three yards behind the line of scrimmage and then never returned in the game due to a head injury. It is crazy to think that even after all of these questionable calls that the Falcons were only losers by three points
- Efficiency- This is also a topic near the top of the list for every loss that also played a role in this week’s game. The Falcons lost the time of possession battle by six minutes, which played a factor on fatigue for the defense again. Atlanta went 4/12 on third downs and also 0/3 on fourth down conversions. The Falcons also racked up the penalties and especially at crucial times, being called for eight penalties that went for seventy yards.
- Running the ball- Another huge reason for the lack of success on offense… the running game. The Falcons had a total of 53 yards on the ground, with Devonta Freeman leading the way with 46 of them. Tevin Coleman only touched the ball five times and he was held to just five total yards. On the flip side, the Falcons defense had a tough time containing Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey on the ground. The two of them totaled 152 rushing yards combined, while the Panthers as a whole almost quadrupled the Falcons total with 201.
The Falcons now find themselves two games back of the Saints for first place in the NFC south, who defeated the Buccaneers today, 30-10. The Falcons will try to get back on winning track next Sunday with a crucial playoff-implication game at home against the Cowboys.