The Falcons started the game quite well, forcing a 3 and out on Defense. With good field position they were able to translate that into a quick strike TD, on a drive which heavily featured WR Roddy White and was fittingly finished by White himself with a nice catch in the back corner of the end zone.
However, the tide turned very quickly against the Falcons. Carolina easily picked apart the depleted Falcons secondary to bring the game back to 7-7.
On the next Panthers possession, the Falcons were able to force a punt. Unfortunately for the Falcons, a horrible effort by Weems, allowed the ball to be downed inside the 5. With a 3rd down on their own 6 yard line, my personal favorite player Sam Baker subbed in at RG and allowed quick pressure which resulted in a safety, putting the Panthers 9-7 up.
One bright spark in the first half was Punter Matt Bosher, who did a real nice job giving the Falcons Defense nice field position to work from. However it didn’t seem to matter as the Falcons defense were getting cut up like a Thanksgiving turkey. With two killer touchdowns by the Panthers, one a 74 yard TD run by DeAngelo Williams, the other a long TD catch and run from TE Greg Olsen. The Falcons entered the half shell shocked and down 23-7.
I don’t know what Mike Smith said or did at halftime. Whether it was some harsh words or chair throwing, but it worked. The Falcons came out fast in the second forcing a quick 3 and out thanks to a knocked down pass from Mr Weatherspoon. The Falcons were able to get 3 points soon after, bringing the gap down to 13 at 23-10, thanks to a Bryant field goal. The Defense continued their ridiculous turnaround by forcing two turnovers in quick succession with a pick a piece from LB Mike Peterson and S William Moore.
The Falcons were unable to capitalize off the first pick as Bryant uncharacteristically hooked a FG attempt to the left. However, the offense did not make the same mistake twice with Ryan hitting Jacquizz Rodgers on a wheel route in the endzone to give Jacquizz his first NFL touchdown and also bring the lead down to 6 at 23-17.
The Falcons dominated in the 4th, with the D forcing Cam Newton to make errant throws and bad decisions. On offense the Falcons continuedto make some head way on offense, getting the ball down the field and into the end zone, thanks to an athletic effort by Rookie Julio Jones, to give the Falcons the lead at 24-23.
Cam Newton and the Panthers were not done however, a few big plays later by the 1st overall pick, and the Panthers had got into comfortable field goal range, with a shot to give Carolina the lead with 6 or so minutes left. To the delight of Falcons fans, Panthers K Orlando Mare scuffed his 36 yard attempt giving the Falcons the ball back inside their own territory still holding the lead.
The Falcons assumed possession of the football looking to kill the game off. Step up Julio Jones, the beast of a rookie beat double coverage on a pass from Ryan and took it 75 yards to the house to effectively seal the game with a 8 point lead at 31-23.
The Panthers, had little time left and were unable to change the outcome of the game.
An absolutely stunning comeback from the Falcons given the situation at halftime. Their playoff chances are still very good at 8-5 and will head back to the Georgia Dome to face the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.