Falcons Take Down Panthers; Get Season Sweep
CHARLOTTE— Matt Ryan threw three touchdown passes and the Falcons defense forced four turnovers in the Atlanta Falcons 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers in Week 16. Atlanta’s victory at Bank of America Stadium is their second straight and completes the season sweep of the Panthers.
The NFC South rivals mirrored each other in the first half with their first four drives ending in a touchdown, punt, fumble and field goal respectively. However, Carolina couldn’t answer Atlanta’s two second-half touchdowns.
Without quarterback and former MVP Cam Newton, the Panthers granted backup Taylor Heinicke his first NFL start. The 25-year-old fumbled his first snap but was able to recover the loose ball. He then led Carolina’s offense on an 8-minute drive that ended in with his first career touchdown pass.
Atlanta’s defense stepped up from that point. They sacked Heinicke twice, intercepted him three times and shut down both of his fourth-down pass attempts.
“I was glad to see over the last couple weeks our turnover margin improve,” head coach Dan Quinn said.
On offense, the Falcons used their fourth-string running back Brian Hill now that Ito Smith has joined Devonta Freeman on IR. Hill showed his ability to find open spaces, rushing for a team high 115 yards.
Hill performance served as a great compliment to Matt Ryan’s passing performance of 239 yards and three touchdowns. His top three receivers Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and Calvin Ridley all reached the end zone. Ridley’s touchdown happened on the first play of the second half. Carolina’s coverage broke down and the rookie found himself alone downfield. Ryan threw an accurate pass and Ridley sprinted for a 75-yard touchdown.
“…A great play call by [offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian], really good route by Calvin, really good design and we were able to get him open,” Ryan said.
The Falcons end their 2018 season in Tampa Bay next Sunday.