Falcons: Defense comes up big, more takeaways from Thursday night

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The Atlanta Falcons clawed out their second win of the season over the Carolina Panthers 25-17, reclaiming their authority after losing to them just weeks earlier, which resulted in the dismissals of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff. This win doesn’t do much in regards to a playoff push, but the more wins the Falcons rack up, the more enticing their head coaching position becomes.

The Falcons had an all-around good performance. Matt Ryan continued to play well by going 21 for 30 with 281 yards and one interception. However, his performance was highlighted by a 13-yard touchdown scramble. The defense also played stout, bringing pressure all night, and Blidi-Wreh Wilson called game with a late interception.

Neither team was efficient on third down. The Falcons only converted 3 of their 9 attempts, and the Panthers only managed to convert 2 of their 10. The difference in this game ended up being the time of possession, as Atlanta held the ball for over 36 minutes.

Here’s what else stood out. 

Red Zone offense was disappointing

While the offense had no issue moving the ball between the 20s, their inability to get the ball into the endzone kept Carolina in the game until the final drive. The Falcons had to settle for a Younghoe Koo field goal on four red-zone occasions. Koo netted all four, with his deepest kick coming from 36 yards. However, he did have a crucial extra point whiff, keeping Carolina to within eight points for their final drive. But that is only a blip on the radar for Koo. On the season, he has netted 19 of his 20 kicks.

“We have too many great players at a lot of positions. The offensive line is doing a great job. We have to score touchdowns.” – Julio Jones

Julio Jones joins the 125 club

The Falcons made it a point to get Julio Jones involved from the get-go. Matt Ryan connected with Jones for a 24-yard strike on the very first play from scrimmage. Jones then added three more receptions before the end of the first quarter to bring his yardage total to 85. With 137 yards on the night, he is now tied with Randy Moss all-time for games with over 125 yards receiving (35). This total was also representative of his recent form over the last three weeks, where Jones has averaged 123.7 yards per game. He is now second to only Jerry Rice, in terms of 125-yard games (49).

Additionally, Julio surpassed NFL legend Torry Holt’s 12,660 yards through a players’ first ten seasons in the NFL. Jones’ 12,709 total has now moved the Falcons receiver to within 566 yards of Jerry Rice’s yardage total of 13,275 through his first ten seasons.

Slow defensive start, strong finish

The Falcons quickly went down 14-6 after a deep touchdown pass from Teddy Bridgewater that snuck into the hands of Curtis Samuel. Samuel was also able to take a handoff up the gut for a 12-yard touchdown run to score the games first touchdown. However, the Falcons defense quickly stood their ground and held the Panthers to only three points for the game’s remaining 42 minutes.

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This defensive stand included two 4th down stops as Foye Oluokun came up big against a Carolina zone read and threw Bridgewater down beyond the line of scrimmage. Later on, the Falcons flooded the line and stuffed Carolina on another run play.

In the end, the defense finally stood on their toes and closed the game out on their terms. Raheem Morris made it known after the Detroit loss that it’s time for this group to become more aggressive in critical situations. They did just that on their way to their second win of the season. 

Could this be the final game as a Falcon for key players?

The NFL trade deadline is coming up on November 3rd, next Tuesday. It’s already known that the Falcons are fielding offers for Takk McKinley. However, there could be others. While the Falcons may still have hope for a miracle playoff push, it would be wiser to accept reality and get what they can for some of their expiring contracts and aging veterans.

It’s been rumored that the Bears have been in contact with Atlanta regarding center Alex Mack. Mack is on the final year of his deal and has probably been the best offseason signing for former General Manager Thomas Dimitroff. There’s much speculation that Mack could hang up his cleats for good at season’s end, and it would be best if the Falcons got something for him instead of letting him walk for free. 

Todd Gurley is another name that should be considered. Despite leading the league in rushing touchdowns (8), he hasn’t provided the offense with the explosion needed to consider bringing him back for a second season. At times, Hill has proven to be the better back, and he should be the one the Falcons consider keeping past this season. 

Who else could be on the chopping block? Keanu NealRicardo Allen? The Falcons would be smart to be sellers leading up to Tuesday afternoon’s deadline.

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