Falcons vs. Panthers: Final Game Grades and Player Analysis for Atlanta
In one of the most exciting games of the season, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers to go to 4-0 on the year. They won on the arm of Matt Ryan and the leg of Matt Bryant. The Falcons have now won five straight against the Panthers and are 28-4 when Matt Ryan starts at home.
Cam Newton hits Greg Olsen for a 17-yard touchdown to cap off a 53-yard drive for the Panthers. The Panthers lead the Falcons 7-0 with 11:45 left in the first quarter.
Matt Ryan hits Roddy White on a 49-yard pass for the touchdown to cap off a three play, 72 yard drive. The game is tied 7-7 with 0:26 left in the first quarter.
At the end of the first, it's 7-7 with the Falcons having the ball at the Panthers 21-yard line.
After a good defensive stop by the Panthers, the Falcons capped off their second scoring drive with a 41-yard Matt Bryan field goal. The Falcons lead 10-7 with 12:55 left in the second quarter.
DeAngelo Williams runs the ball in from the 13-yard line to cap off a 79-yard drive. The Panthers lead 14-10 with 8:44 left in the second quarter.
Matt Ryan hit Roddy White over the middle for the 14-yard touchdown to finish a 51-yard drive. The Falcons lead 17-14 with 1:49 left in the second quarter.
The second half ends with the Falcons defense stopping Cam Newton and the Panthers offense. The Falcons lead 17-14 at the end of the first half.
The second half opened with a defensive stop. Then Ryan led the offense 72 yards on three plays capped off by a 60-yard screen pass to Michael Turner for the touchdown. The Falcons lead 24-14 with 10:17 left in the third quarter.
Cam Newton had a four yard run to finish the 12-play, 77 yard drive and bring the Panthers within three. The Falcons lead 24-21 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
At the end of the third quarter, the Falcons lead 24-21 with the Panthers in control of the football at their own 32-yard line.
On a busted play by the Falcons defense, Cam Newton found Kealoha Pilares for hte 28-yard touchdown. The Panthers lead 28-24 with 7:55 left in the fourth quarter.
After a drive that moved the ball well but stalled in the end, the Falcons were forced to have Matt Bryant kick a 33-yard field goal. The Panthers lead 28-27 with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter.
After one of the most exciting final drives in the league this season, Matt Bryant showed that he has ice in his veins hitting a 40-yard field goal for the win. The Falcons win 30-27.
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Performances by Roddy White and Michael Turner were ridiculously good and carried the Falcons to victory today. The two veterans combined for 24 touches, 340 yards and three touchdowns. They also had two explosive plays that the Falcons would not have been able to win without.
The offense as a whole was able to score big again with another 30-point performance and victory. There were miscues throughout the game and they didn't look as dominant as they did in the first three games.
On the first play of the quarter, Matt Ryan tried dumping it off to Michael Turner but it was dropped. Turner makes up for it the next play with a 14-yard run for the first down. Then on the very next play, he gained another 27 yards to go over the century mark for the first time this season.
Jacquizz Rodgers took the ball two yards on first down and then brought it another three yards on second down. On third-and-five, Greg Hardy sacks Ryan for the offensive line's fifth sack allowed of the game to force the punt.
The Falcons opened the second drive with two straight dropped passes to bring up an early third-and-10. On the third down play, Ryan hits Julio Jones for his first catch of the day of 30 yards to bring it to midfield.
Rodgers took a screen pass 15 yards to the Panthers 35-yard line and then followed that up with a nine-yard screen right after it. On the screen there was also a facemask penalty that give the Falcons first-and-10 on the 13. Then, the Panthers sack Ryan for a nine-yard loss.
On second-and-19, Ryan tried a slant to Jones, but the ball was knocked out by Thomas Davis to force the third-and-19. On third-and-19, Rodgers got a short pass for a seven-yard gain forcing a field goal.
The Falcons went deep for a pass to Julio Jones, but he stepped out on the play that would have been a huge pass. Ryan avoided a sack on second down to find Turner for a seven-yard gain. On third-and-three, Ryan got knocked out of bounds for a sack to force the punt.
Ryan made a ridiculous throw to Roddy White for 59 yards to bring it to the Carolina 40-yard line. Ryan throws it away on the second down play to have it as second-and-10 on the 40 with 23 second left. Julio Jones got interfered with to force a first-and-10 at the 35-yard line.
Ryan hit Gonzalez for eight yards. The Falcons had a second-and-two at the 28-yard line and Ryan hit Douglas for another six yards to set up the 40-yard game winning field goal attempt.
Michael Turner gained just one yard on the first play of the half. Then, Tony Gonzalez gains 11 yards for his fifth catch of the game and a first down. On a screen play on first-and-10 from the 40-yard line, Michael Turner takes it 60 yards for the touchdown.
The second drive opened with Ryan missing Jason Snelling on a short route. The second down play was another screen to Turner, but it went for just one yard this time. On third-and-nine, Ryan hit White for 13-yard catch.
Jacquizz Rodgers opens the second set of downs with a three-yard gain. Then on second down, Charles Johnson beats Tyson Clabo and Mike Johnson for the sack. Then Harry Douglas drops the ball to force the punt.
The quarter opened with another sack on Ryan, however there was a facemask call to give the Falcons and overall 2-yard gain. Then Ryan hit Snelling short of the line of scrimmage for a two-yard loss. On a broken play, Ryan gets just a one-yard pass off to Roddy White and then has an incomplete pass to Julio Jones on third-and-14. Falcons get stopped but still get three points on the 41-yard field goal.
The second drive of the quarter opens with a short run by Turner and a six-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez to set up a third-and-three. The third-and-three pass was tipped away by Charles Godfrey to force the punt.
Another Turner run to open up the drive gets followed by Tony Gonzalez getting a great catch for 14 yards. Ryan took another deep shot to Roddy White, but White wasn't able to locate it for the touchdown. On second-and-10, Jacquizz Rodgers gets five-yard gain on a good cutback. On third-and-five, Ryan goes to Roddy White for a nine-yard gain.
From the 20-yard line, the Falcons open on first down with a flat pass to Jason Snelling for five yards. Then Turner gains just one yard on second down to give Ryan and the offense a third-and-four from the 14 at the two minute warning. On third-and-four from the 14, Roddy White caught the touchdown pass from Matt Ryan over the middle.
On the first play, the offensive line missed an easy blitz pickup. Then on the second play, Ryan gets the ball batted at the line in a dangerous pass to create the first third down of the game. And on third down, Ryan gets sacked by Charles Johnson on a coverage sack.
For the second drive, Ryan opens with a quick pitch and catch to Roddy White for 13 yards to move the chains.On his first run of the game, Turner takes the carry two yards to give Atlanta a second-and-eight. The Falcons continue moving the ball with a 13-yard throw to Tony Gonzalez followed by a three-yard Jason Snelling catch. Joe Hawley plays a mean fullback and sets up a third-and-one play.
On third-and-one, the Falcons lined up Julio Jones in the backfield only to hand it off to Turner for another 12 yards. After a quick one yard gain by JAcquizz Rodgers, Ryan hits White again for another 13-yard gain to bring it to the 14-yard line. A four-yard Rodgers run, Turner follows it with a six-yard run to set up first-and-goal from the four-yard line.
A three-yard run by Turner followed by a an offside penalty gives the Falcons a second-and-goal from the one. The Falcons got a touchdown pass to Tommy Gallarda, but he pushed off and pushed the Falcons back 10 yards. After a penalty for helmet-to-helmet, the Falcons had an incompletion on second-and-goal. Then Ryan got sacked on second-and-goal and then intercepted on third-and-goal.
For the first play of the third drive, Michael Turner got a 17-yard carry to bring the ball to the 40 and then follows it up with an 11-yard gain to bring it to the Carolina 49. On first-and-10 from the 49, Ryan hits White on a beautiful play-action touchdown pass.
On the final play of the first quarter, Matt Ryan hit Jacquizz Rodgers for a 9-yard gain to give the Falcons the ball at the Panthers 21-yard line.
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Matt Ryan proved why he is called "Matty Ice" today. His clutch performance on the final drive was what put the Falcons in position to even have a shot. However, his overall game today was amazing as he went 25-for-40 (62.5 percent) for 369 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Matt Ryan has just one incompletion and has been sacked once for the first drive of the quarter. Ryan was four-for-six on the drive consisting of mainly screen passes and the one big pass to Julio Jones. He finished up with a short pass to Rodgers to set up the short field goal.
On the second-to-last drive of the game, Ryan had a beautiful throw on a deep pass, but Jones just could not stay in bounds. Then he had a seven-yard dump off to Turner and got sacked on third down to force the punt.
Ryan was just ridiculous on the final drive of the game. He went three-for-four and had 72 yards passing on the final drive to set up the game winning field goal with 10 seconds left.
Matt Ryan was flawless here. He broke a couple tackles and went two-for-two for 71 yards and a touchdown on this first drive. Ryan was bad on the next drive going one-for-three for 13 yards and got sacked for a nine-yard loss.
Ryan is looking confused out there today. He was two-for-three but it was for minus-4 yards to start the quarter. On the second drive, it was more of the same and Ryan was just one-for-two for six yards. He also failed to call the plays well in the no-huddle.
After a slow start, Ryan went three-for-four for 28 yards before the two minute warning. Right after the two minute warning, Ryan got a 14-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White. He finishes the quarter with a game line of 13-for-20 (65.0 percent), 144 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Ryan started off zero-for-two and then got sacked on third down. He looked lost against a Panthers defense. He started driving the offense down the field and looked good. But getting sacked for holding onto the ball too long and throwing a pick on back to back plays in the redzone are making him look terrible today.
After a terrible start on the first two drives, Ryan relied on the running game and a pair of excellent play-action passes to finish the quarter six-for-10 for 100 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
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Michael Turner had a ridiculous game today. He had 14 runs for 103 yards, and also had three catches for 68 yards and a touchdown. His performance was another great one and proves that he isn't washed up just yet. He still looks like the Pro Bowl caliber player he has been for the past four years.
Rodgers didn't look ready to take the full time load today. However, as a receiver out of the backfield on screens, he was able to give the Falcons clutch yardage when they needed it. He also did excellent as a return man on kickoffs.
Snelling was a non-factor outside of one catch that he earned a first down on. His blocking is where he made his money today and in that, he did excellent.
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What more can anyone say about his performance. Almost every one of his eight catches went for a first down today. Add in the two huge catches of a 49-yard touchdown and the 59-yard play from the one, and White has proven that he is still one of the top three receivers in the NFL.
While White got all of the stats today, Jones was drawing all of the coverages. He did get one clutch 30 yard reception. But by drawing the brackets and the heavy zones, he opened up the middle of the field for Gonzalez and the other side for White.
Douglas was pretty much invisible all game. However, in the clutch he made a six-yard reception and made sure to get out of bounds with 10-seconds left to give Bryant the 40-yard try.
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Gonzalez had another game today that makes you wonder when the man will start to age. He caught another five balls for another 51 yards and made it look easy. He is on the best pace of his career and could end up with over 100 catches if he can continue the same pace.
Gallarda had his first real action today. He got caught with a pass interference on what would have been an early touchdown. He was a solid blocker when he was in and could end up as a good option for that all season.
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LT Sam Baker—A
Yes, Sam Baker got an A today. He was excellent as a run blocker and allowed just 0.5 sacks all game. His overall play was excellent and he is showing this season why the Falcons stuck with him all offseason.
LG Justin Blalock—B
He was also excellent as a run blocker. He allowed a full sack, but was more than able to make up for it the rest of the game.
C Todd McClure—B
McClure was excellent in his line calls but he just got beat on a play by Ron Edwards to allow a sack. His run blocking was solid as well.
RG Garrett Reynolds—A
He's the only Falcon to not allow a sack today and looked excellent in run blocking as well. Reynolds has really turned his entire game around and it's shocking to see that he and Baker are the best two linemen today.
RT Tyson Clabo—D
Clabo was awful in pass protection today. He also couldn't get any push in the running game. He allowed 3.5 sacks to Charles Johnson and looked slow off the line. This was by far his worst game as a Falcon.
OL Joe Hawley—B
He was used all over the field. He was an extra tight end, a fullback and played primarily on run downs to get that extra push. He provided it well and even helped Turner get sprung for a couple of first down gains.
OL Mike Johnson—D
Of the seven sacks allowed, one was by Mike Johnson. He was blown by on a Charles Johnson wide-9 alignment. However, Johnson was able to give good support as a run blocker.
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The defense had some miscues in the game especially when they blitzed. However, when it mattered, they locked it up and turned in one of the best performances in a clutch situation this year. Despite allowing four touchdowns, they had an aggressive game. There just weren't the turnovers to help get them off the field.
The first play of the quarter starts with a false start penalty on the Panthers to create second-and-16. Cam Newton ran it for 11 yards to create a third-and-five. On third down, the Panthers had a pass play that would have gained the first down; however, it was challenged by the Falcons and overturned to force the punt.
On the first play of the second drive, Greg Olsen had a 34-yard catch to bring the ball out near midfield. Mike Tolbert got a three-yard run right after it to bring it to the 49 yard line. On second-and-seven, Jonathan Stewart gained 15 yards on the ground.
On first-and-10, Stewart gets another five yards as the run defense is starting to look exhausted. On second-and-five, Vance Walker had a sack and forced fumble, but the ball was recovered by the Panthers to force a third-and-10. On third-and-10, Cam Newton found Kealoha Pilhares for the 38-yard screen touchdown on a broken play.
The Panthers opened up with a pair of runs and got stuffed both times for just two yards on the two plays to set up a third-and-eight on the 22-yard line. The Falcons defense forced an incompletion on third down to give the ball back to the offense.
The Falcons defense allowed four yards on the run by Jonathan Stewart. then on the very next play, they allowed Cam Newton to gain the first down after a 10-yard run. DeAngelo Williams took the ball another four yards after the two minute warning to bring it to second-and-six.
Another four yards forced it to a third-and-two. The Falcons needed to get the stop on third-and-two and then Cam Newton fumbled the ball forcing the fourth down play and a punt to the Falcons offense. The defense also was excellent to not move on fourth down when the Panthers tried to draw them offsides. John Abraham gets a sack on the final play of the game to clinch it for the Falcons.
Cam Newton opens the second half with a pass to Jonathan Stewart for eight yards. Stewart was then stuffed by Abraham for just a one-yard gain. On third-and-one, the Falcons force a measurement but still allowed the first down.
On first-and-10 from the 30-yard line, Newton missed on his first pass. Then, the Falcons allowed just one yard on second-and-10 to force a third-and-nine from the 31-yard line. On third down, the Falcons defense blitzed seven guys and forced a throw away for the punt.
The second drive started with a three yard handoff to DeAngelo Williams. On second-and-seven, the Panthers had a false start to force it to second-and-12. The second down play was caught by Steve Smith for a 17-yard gain and the first down.
Tolbert takes the first down run for six yards to bring it to second-and-four. Newton had a keeper to gain five yards and another first down. On first-and-10, Sean Weatherspoon gets the first sack of the game on Cam Newton.
Then on second down, Armanti Edwards got the ball for a 12-yard screen gain for the first down. Edwards lined up at quarterback and then there was a flag thrown and picked up for a defensive pass interference play. For second-and-10 from the 39, Cam Newton hits Greg Olsen for an 18-yard gain.
Vance Walker made a stop for just a two-yard gain, then Newton threw it incomplete for a third-and-eight from the Falcons 19-yard line. Newton got blitzed heavily, but ran the draw for a 15-yard gain to force a first-and-goal on the four-yard line. From the four, Newton runs it in for a touchdown.
On the final play of the quarter, DeAngelo Williams took the pitch and was stopped behind the line by Akeem Dent for a one-yard loss.
The defense started off by allowing a 10-yard run, a 13-yard run and a two-yard run. Then they allowed an eight-yard pass and a six yard option run. Then on a second-and-five, Newton hits Smith on a post play for a 27-yard gain. Then DeAngelo Williams runs through the heart of the defense from the 13-yard line for the touchdown.
The Falcons opened with more of the same allowing a seven-yard run. Then they lock it down a bit with a two-yard tackle for loss by Dunta Robinson to force a third-and-five. On third down, the Falcons defense forced an incompletion.
On the third drive, the Falcons allowed a four plays for 25 yards. Olsen, Smith and Tolbert all caught balls in the first four plays. On the third first down, Biermann gets pressure on Newton to force the incompletion.
The defense also drew an offensive pass interference, that was declined to set up the second-and-20 from the Panthers 36-yard line. Cam Newton got a 5-yard scramble to get a third-and-14 with 17 second left in the half. On the final play of the half, Newton is forced to scramble again, this time for just two yards.
After allowing just three yards on the first play, the defense allows a 32-yard run by Cam Newton on the zone read. On the second set of downs, the first two downs resulted in just a one yard gain to create a third-and-nine. Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen for the 17-yard touchdown pass on third down for the first score of the game.
The second drive started with an 11-yard pass to Greg Olsen and a one-yard zone read to Jonathan Stewart. The defense forced an incomplete pass on the screen play to DeAngelo Williams to force the third-and-nine. Then after great pressure, the Falcons forced an incompletion to force their first punt.
On the final defensive play of the first quarter, the Panthers tried an end around to Steve Smith, but Dunta Robinson forced the fumble and Ray Edwards picked up the ball.
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Abraham was the only one to consistently get pressure all day. He still finished with just one of the three sacks on the day and it was only because of the great coverage on the final play.
He was in the right place at the right time on his fumble recovery. However, he was excellent against the run. He needs to get better in the pass rush though to earn the money the Falcons are paying him.
He's the anti-Edwards. He's a solid pass rusher, but he was drawing double teams and chips all day. However, against the run, he has been terrible this season and today was no different.
He got consistent pressure today but still wasn't able to get a sack. He did however play better against the run than he has all season.
He was a ghost today. He was drawing double teams for a good bit but wasn't able to create pressure in the passing game.
He got a sack and a forced fumble, however, he let a lot of plays get by him. He was consistently getting blocked out of plays in the running game.
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Weatherspoon was solid in coverage as he wasn't even thrown towards. However, he was even better in the run game and even picked up a sack.
Nicholas has been a silent hero for the Falcons this season. Today, he had some mistakes in coverage but he continually was able to contribute in the pass rush and coverage and against the run.
Dent was solid but unspectacular. He was excellent in run defense but proved why he is out on almost every nickel play with his poor coverage.
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Moore was solid but unspecatular in all aspects today. The only reason why this grade gets bumped to a B is due to the forced fumble he caused on the second-to-ast defensive play of the game.
DeCoud was a solid tackler and was taking good angles today. He wasn't able to cause a turnover but he filled his responsibilities all day.
He allowed a couple of catches, but he also made some plays against Smith that would have not been made by any other corner on the roster.
Robinson was excellent in man-to-man coverage today and the only time the receiver on the left made plays was when he went in on blitzes. However, the reason why Robinson's grade is so high is due to the way he stopped a rusher behind the line to almost single-handedly end a drive.
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The Falcons have one of the best special teams units in the NFL today. They had great field position all day and didn't make any mistakes. Add into this the game winning field goal was a textbook example in clutch kicking and the grade here is well deserved.
The first punt to Dominique Franks was fair caught at the 17-yard line. Matt Bosher kicked the punt to the Panthers for just 30 yards, but the Panthers will be starting at their own 12-yard line. Matt Bryant hits the 33-yard field goal to cut the lead to just one point.
Bosher kicked it through the endzone again on the kickoff. Bosher skied another punt to force the Panthers to have the ball at the 32-yard line. Dominique Franks allowed the ball to go and the Falcons took the ball at the one-yard line.
Bryant hit the 40-yard game winner right through the middle of the uprights to bring the Falcons up with just five seconds remaining.
The opening kickoff of the half goes through the back of the endzone. Dominique Franks fair caught the punt to give the Falcons the ball at their own 28-yard line. Matt Bryant knocked yet another extra point through easily.
On the second kickoff of the half, the Falcons allowed the Panthers to bring it to just the 23-yard line again. Bosher had his third punt of the game go 59 yards, but Captain Munnerlyn returned it 20 yards to the Panthers 33-yard line.
Matt Bryant opens the quarter with an easy 41-yard field goal. The Falcons also allowed a 28-yard return on the kickoff but that brought it to just the 21-yard line. For his second punt of the game, Matt Bosher skied it for 56-yards and it was returned just two yards by Captain Munnerlyn to give the Panthers the ball at their own 19-yard line.
On the first real return of the game, Dominique Franks got 18-yards but looked like he was just one broken tackle away from making it a touchdown return. After another perfectly kicked extra point by Bryant, Bosher kicked it through the back of the endzone on the kickoff. Another mistake-free quarter here.
Jacquizz Rodgers receives the initial kickoff and downs it deep in the endzone. Bosher had a good 45-yard punt with great hangtime and the unit only allowed a one yard return. On the second return of the game, Rodgers takes it out to the 24-yard line for a 27-yard return.
The first punt was fair caught easily by Dominique Franks. Matt Bryant hit his first extra point with ease. This was just a mistake free quarter for the special teams unit.
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Somehow, someway, the Falcons will find a way to win. The coaching was excellent for most of the game, but there were times when a blitz call backfired on the defense or the offense just couldn't get anything going. Overall, you can't win a game unless the coaching can earn at least an above average grade.
The defensive play calls to start the quarter were good. However, Mike Smith made an excellent challenge on a third-down play that overturned a first down gaining catch and forced a punt by the Panthers.
The offensive play calling was great in the first drive relying on the running game. The defensive play calling was average at best allowing the Panthers to get a touchdown to take the lead late. The defense locked it up on the second-to-last Panthers offensive drive.
On the Falcons final offensive drive, the play calls looked solid and the team stayed aggressive, they just could not execute. The final defensive drive of the game looked good as the Falcons allowed just one first down and got a crucial defensive stop.
On the final offensive possession, Smith trusted one of the best quarterbacks in the league to play like one and his quarterback executed. The Falcons don't win this game without Smith trusting in Ryan.
The defense mixed up looks on every down and forced the Panthers offense to gain just 11 yards on the first defensive drive. The offense was brilliant on their first drive with a screen pass to Michael Turner to take the 10 point lead.
The second defensive drive didn't look as good. While they were able to force some bad plays, they still allowed a touchdown. The second offensive drive made the Panthers defense look good and the play calling was good, but the execution wasn't there.
The offense got stopped early and the defense has looked like Swiss cheese this quarter. The Falcons need to get back the fire they finished the first quarter with. The offense tried to run the no-huddle, but it didn't work early.
The defense locked it down in the second and third drives for the Panthers of the quarter and the offense went back to the running game. The offense started to drive again on the third drive of the quarter and the Falcons dominated the time of possession in the game.
Starting off, the Falcons looked weak on offense and on defense. They looked hungover after playing so well out of the gate to start the first three games. The offense started moving the ball well in the second drive, but couldn't finish.
After getting a bad start, the Falcons offense and defense woke up halfway through the quarter. The aggression turned on and the Falcons finished the quarter tied 7-7 with the ball at the Panthers 21-yard line ready to strike.
Scott Carasik is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He covers the Atlanta Falcons, NFL and NFL draft. He is also the Falcons analyst at Drafttek, runs the NFL Draft Website ScarDraft.com and hosts Kvetching Draftniks Radio.