Falcons Control the Controllable
Mercedes Benz is not the only stadium hosting empty seats at kickoff in Charlotte there was a lot of blue on display. At this time of the season with nothing more to play for other than pride and your job I guess it’s expected. Oh, by the way, no Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke got the start and willed himself to finish banged up. On the jumbo screen, they displayed 167 consecutive sellouts at Bank of America Stadium.
Back up QB Heinicke was impressive leading the team down for the games first score in 14 plays for 73 yards while eating up 8:03. Defensive holding was called on D. Trufant gifting first down on 3rd and 3. The result was a 1-yard touchdown to a jumping Ian Thomas. He threw the ball 53 times completing 33 passes for 274 yards and 3 interceptions.
The Falcons came out firing Matt Ryan went deep it appeared to be there but the defender Bradberry made an outstanding play reaching around the receiver textbook style to slap the ball away from Russell Gage, though it was not successful that play set the tone. It showed they were coming with effort. The season may not be going the way this Super Bowl caliber team wanted, but they are grinding it out.
They answered with 13 plays 85 yards 6:19 off the clock on a Matt Ryan to Julio Jones 1 yard touchdown as he rolled out looking for the tight end the linebacker came down, and Julio ran the backline across Ryan hit him in perfect stride. Just like that two impressive drives and the first quarter was over.
The Falcons got an early break of a fumble recovery at the Panthers 13 yard line but as it’s been all season good news equals bad news. DT Kyle Love smacked Matt Ryan as he surveyed the field from the pocket causing a fumble that he recovered at the 22-yard line.
Love made this statement about his sack “I just had a hunch they were going to be aggressive on me. Atlanta is known for doing a lot of play action pass, seven-man protection, get one guy on the route, which is usually Julio. I was just extra aggressive knowing he was going to be aggressive, and I just made a play.”
The Panthers broke the tie with a 50-yard field goal by J Jansen. The Falcons got in the red zone but were shut down Mr. Automatic Matt Bryant was called on to make the 39-yard field goal to tie it back up at 10.
It was the Panthers turn to work inside the red zone Damontae Kazee tipped the pass, and J Crawford intercepted preventing another touchdown just before the half at the 2-yard line.
The defense allowed them to move the ball all game but stood strong in the red zone. The first half was much to do about nothing two teams playing for pride looked just like they were playing for pride. There was limited excitement Matt Ryan had 89 yards completing 8-15.
That explosive offense struck to start the second half Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley deep left for 75 yards. When they click, it looks so effortless its enticing, making the fans thirsty for more. Ridley started the season hot scoring 6 touchdowns but has been cool of late scoring only three times in the last 11 games. He was shut down in eight of those.
Sanu came open across the middle 44 yards later he was in the end zone celebrating. The Falcons extended their lead to 24-10.
The good news each of the big three scored Sanu, Ridley, and Julio when asked for his thoughts Mohamed Sanu said “Get out of here. That’s pretty cool. We just went out there and had a good time. We made some plays when we got out opportunities. The defense played outstanding, and we went out and held up our end of the bargain.”
The Panthers got back into scoring territory, but Brian Poole intercepted the ball at the 17-yard line. Again they moved down to the 6-yard line, but the defense kept the door shut. Carolina was able to move the ball with ease at critical times the better team rose up.
Matt Ryan finished 15-26, 239 yards, 3 touchdowns. Brian Hill had the game of his life leading the team in rushing for 115 yards on 8 carries. That name is not heard often in this injury-filled down season second, and third level players are getting opportunities and valuable experience.
For Carolina, the player of the game was Christian McCaffrey who led the team in rushing 21 carries for 101 yards as well as catching 12 passes for 77 yards.
Both teams are trying to close out as best they can the Falcons took this game 24-10. According to Grady Jarrett, the mentality on heading down the stretch is “definitely want to finish strong and control what we can control. It was good to get two wins against Carolina for the year. We want to continue and finish strong against Tampa.