A sign for the ages appeared in the stands appropriately written: “Don’t be a Foolio throw it to Julio.” And that they did. I guess that fan will be applying for the job as the assistant offensive coordinator. After a one catch performance against the Saints on Monday Night Football, the team appeared apologetic throwing to him on the first three passes of the game. They used the left, right, left strategy 22 yards to the right, 14 yards to the left, and 15 yards back to the right.
From there it went on the be a record setting day for the most outstanding performance for a Quarterback, Receiver duo in NFL history, 12 catches, 300 yards for (11) Julio and 503 yards passing for (2) Matt Ryan. They were in the zone.
On his last touchdown he came across the middle, a simple route for most, but for the leagues’ best pass catcher it was a 75-yard touchdown run down the sideline sprinting past defenders as he watched them fall back in the rearview mirror. It was his longest run after the catch to date.
On Julio’s 75-yard touchdown catch:
“Well, it looked pretty good from where I was standing, said Matt Ryan. That was a great call, a really aggressive call by Kyle in that situation. But we knew they were going to be downhill against the run game, did a good job with play-action passing, got Julio the ball in space and when he gets the ball in space, he’s so explosive. He just finished the run so well and that was impressive to see.”
The Falcons did a lot of impressive things in this team victory, such as, spreading the ball around, 10 different players caught passes and the defense held the Panthers to only 49 yards rushing. The offense produced the 571 total yards which are the highest total in franchise history. They had three scoring drives of 90 yards or more. On their second possession of the game, they went 6 plays for 98 yards to set the stage for what was yet to come. The most impressive was the 10 play 99-yard drive coming out after halftime. The ball was kicked deep to (14) Eric Weems who errored dropping the ball and scrambled to recover it at the one-yard line. It looked terrible (2) Ryan had thrown the dreaded pick six the last time they were backed up against their own goal line in the second quarter when he attempted a short pass to (24) Devonta Freeman sneaking out of the backfield. (20) Kurt Coleman stepped in front for the interception going just 8 yards for the touchdown.
That happened to Ryan several times last year key time during games, but this time it was redemption. Give Shannahan credit he went right back to him calling a pass play out of shotgun formation on first and ten from the one-yard line, it was completed for 19 yards to (18) Taylor Gabriel giving the offense some oxygen. (24) Freeman picked up 7 more yards running up the middle then adversity struck on a holding pass by (67) Andy Levitre followed by an illegal shift by (12) M Sanu leaving them in a pressure cooker, first and twenty from their own 10-yard line. It looked like they were taking one step forward and two steps backward.
Then (2) Ryan hit (18) T Gabriel for 19 yards deep right to put them back on life support, “down here the first goal is to get some operating room,” he was tackled at the 30-yard line. A few plays later Ryan threw the monkey off his back with a high arching 42-yard touchdown to (81) Austin Hooper for his first touchdown. On that critical drive, he threw 8 passes misconnecting only on one. Shannon clearly put it in his hands they were going to live with him or die with him. The other major time-consuming drive was 9 plays for 94 yards. Those types of drives just wear down a defense and display the character of your offense. It’s a mentality of total domination that breaks the spirit of your opponent.
Cam Newton came out like a kid in the candy store high fiving dancing taking selfies for the beloved fans in his hometown of Atlanta. He has such a fun loving infectious personality. Perhaps too happy to be home as he picked up a taunting penalty by doing his signature figure pointing gesture after gaining a first down on the third play of the game upsetting the Falcon defender earning a flag and a 15-yard penalty. Perhaps a little too happy to be home, he literally could have stayed at mom and dads’ house.
It was a tough day for the leagues reigning MVP. He just couldn’t get into any kind of rhythm as the Falcon defense brought pressure all day. They were either near or hitting him often. On a two point conversion in the fourth quarter, he was whacked at the goal line as he appeared to let up and coast into the end zone on a lack luster effort. Unfortunately, it was a head to head hit that knocked him out of the game, and into the NFL Concussion Protocol. Backup Quarterback (3) Derek Anderson came in and put together an impressive 11 play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to (10) Corey Brown to make the score interesting at 33 – 41 in favor of Atlanta.
The Falcons offense didn’t do much on their next possession so they turned it over on downs to the Carolina Panthers. With all the dominance by the Atlanta offense, they found themselves within the reach of stealing the victory without their starting quarterback. All it was going to take was a touchdown and a two point conversion. Dousing the dream (23) Robert Alford stepped in front of (88) G Olson for the pick, and returned it 30 yards to complete the pick 6 formula. To drive the preverbal nail in the coffin he got another pick on the next possession and went down at the 50-yard line to secure the win.
This victory over a divisional opponent made a convincing statement at 48-33.
Cam Newton’s status is uncertain for the marquee Sunday Night prime time game in Charlotte next week against Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If he plays the stage will be set for the MVP to play against the Rookie of the year.
Interesting facts of the game:
Tight End Jacob Tamme got his second touchdown of the year on the first drive of the game
Tight End Austin Hooper caught the first touchdown of his career as he went bumbling and stumbling into the end zone. Aldrick Robinson first touchdown pass of the year.
Rookie S Keanu Neal had nine total tackles in his second career start.
CB Robert Alford had two interceptions one for a pick six which is demoralizing to a quarterback.