6 minutes and 12 seconds. That’s how long the Falcons had possession of the ball in the first half. Sure, they didn’t receiver the ball first, but it doesn’t matter one bit. Only having the ball for 1/5 of the time of the first half isn’t acceptable. The Falcons only had three possessions in the first half, and while they had a first down on two of those drives, the general feeling that was given from those series was that they were three-and-outs. There wasn’t a single point scored in the first half, and the Falcons trailed 16-0 going into intermission.
How are you supposed to win when you don’t score a point until approximately four minutes are left in the third quarter? There’s just no way. And as weak and pathetic as the Falcons offense looked, the Panthers were moving the ball extremely well against an Atlanta defense that had played well in recent weeks.
Carolina scored an easy touchdown on their first possession, facing little to no resistance from the Atlanta defense. Of course, the thought in then mind of every Falcons fan was that this wasn’t a sustainable thing by the Panthers. Of course the Falcons would start creating turnovers, forcing punts, and giving the offense more opportunities. They certainly did more of that in the second half than they did in the first, but not significantly so.
Cam Newton absolutely had his way. Just when the Falcons had Carolina in third and long situations, and the defensive line was close to bringing him down, Newton worked his magic, eluded tacklers, and found his way to get first downs. Heck, he even ran for a 72-yard touchdown on a scramble in which he wasn’t even touched.
But that wasn’t the only massive play the Falcons gave up. A 52-yard screen pass that went for a TD to DeAngelo Williams late in the 4th quarter was the real back breaker for the Falcons. With a score and then the successful on-side kick, they stood a chance of winning 24-23. But it was certainly not meant to be. It was a miserable, miserable day for the Atlanta defense, that looked as porous and horrible as I’ve seen any defense look all season long. \
While the defense looked really rough, the true story of the day was a severely lackluster offense. It found it’s way into the end-zone 3 times in the second half, which is generally a good amount of points for a half. But it did little to mitigate the damage done by not scoring one point in the first two quarters.
I think it would also be a valid argument to say that since the Falcons were playing from a huge deficit, the entire half could be looked at as essentially ‘garbage time’. It’s the time when defenses soften, because they realize that you can’t be successful with the time given. I’m actually going to be the first to make that argument, and here’s why: the Falcons didn’t put points on the board until they were already down by 23 points.
For a while, the Falcons offense looked pretty good. They had just scored 13 unanswered points, forced a Carolina punt, and looked like they could be right in the middle of the game again. Things were looking up. But while the Falcons got the ball back, their drive eventually stalled, and they found themselves around midfield with a 4th & 8 situation. It was do or die for Atlanta’s offense, but nobody was open. Rather than throw the ball away, something that would be possible on other downs, Matt Ryan did the only thing he could, and threw a desperation pass towards Roddy White. Unfortunately, he was locked up, and the pass was intercepted by linebacker Thomas Davis. Carolina scored on the ensuing possession, essentially putting the game completely out of reach for the Falcons. The moment of the interception was when Falcons fans knew that the game was now over.
There isn’t a whole lot of positives to take from this game. Ryan was sacked twice, hit 6 times, and threw that one desperation interception. The receiving corps, widely regarded as one of the best in the league, couldn’t seem to get a bit of separation. The game was so out of reach that the run game wasn’t really an option most of the day. The defense couldn’t play contain on Newton and the rest of Carolina’s backfield, and it certainly couldn’t defend runs up the middle. Play-action passes drew Atlanta’s defense right up, and they couldn’t do squat against Newton’s knifing passing attack. In a word, this performance was miserable. And there’s not much to build on from that game.