The Atlanta Falcons beat the Carolina Panthers 31-10 Sunday, but they still have areas for improvement.
After completely dominating the Panthers in the first half, the Falcons looked a little flat on defense in the third quarter. Carolina ended up rushing for 212 yards on the day, led by Jonathan Stewart with 133 yards—the vast majority of those yards coming in the second half.
Atlanta's defense has been one of the better teams defending the run this year, but they have now given up big yardage totals two weeks in a row.
This week, it was probably a combination of the Falcon defense getting a little bored and the Carolina offense not wanting to be completely embarrassed. Still, it would have been nice to see the defense put together a full game and not allow a now 1-12 team to gain so many yards on the ground.
We can all be sure that coach Mike Smith will have a similar message.
On the bright side, the pass-defense woes disappeared this week. While a lot of that has to do with Jimmy Clausen and the Panther's league-worst offense, holding a team to 76 passing yards, getting five sacks (four of them coming from the combination of John Abraham and Kroy Biermann, who had two a piece) and forcing an interception are some pretty gaudy statistics.
The defense also forced a turnover on the first play of the game when Stewart fumbled and Dunta Robinson recovered it. Mike Peterson got the pick after Stephen Nicholas tipped the ball in the air.
As for the offense, it was a bit inconsistent as well Sunday.
The running game was no problem, as Michael Turner rushed for 112 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns.
The air attack, however, at times looked very pretty and at times sputtered.
Matt Ryan finished the day with 227 yards, a touchdown and an interception while completing 58 percent of his passes. His touchdown went to Tony Gonzalez and his pick came when the team got a bit greedy at the end of the first half, trying to score with very little time left.
Some of the blame for the interception has to fall on receiver Michael Jenkins as well, as he could have done a better job of coming back to the ball instead of waiting for it to get to him.
Roddy White was the team's leading receiver, catching eight balls for 79 yards. Harry Douglas also showed some of his ability, gaining 46 yards on his lone catch.
All in all, a win is a win. The team is 11-2, still atop the NFC South and still leading the NFC.
As is the case in every game, there are some things to work on, mainly consistency on both sides of the ball.
Smith is still waiting for the complete, 60-minute domination of an opponent, and will hope his team can do so next week in Seattle.