The Atlanta Falcons game against the rival Carolina Panthers this Sunday was actually two games within a game. The Falcons came out in the first half and managed only one good drive while the Panthers were able to put together several scoring drives of their own. The defense for the Falcons could do nothing to stop the Cam Newton led offense as they were able to put 23 points on the board before halftime and lead the Falcons by a score of 23-7. At halftime, something changed for the Falcons and they came out firing on all cylinders and would eventually mount a stunning comeback that helped them keep their slim lead in the Wild Card over the Detroit Lions.
In the first half of Sundays game, Matt Ryan was not his usual stellar self. He had only completed 11 of 18 passes for 88 yards and one touchdown. Micheal Turner was also not up to par as we are used to seeing as he only managed to gain 31 yards on 9 carries. The offense for the Falcons only managed to score one touchdown during this downtrodden first half while the Panthers ,on the other hand, were moving up and down the field as if their lives depended on it. Cam Newton showed in the first half why he should be the clear favorite for Rookie of the Year. He made good decisions and strong throws that only seasoned vets should be able to make. Cam led the Panthers to a stunning 23-7 lead at halftime and with the way they played during the first half, it did not seem as if they were gonna stop scoring in the second half. Luckily for the Falcons, something happened in the locker room during halftime that changed the outcome of the game for the better.
The beginning of the third quarter started out great for the Falcons. The were able to force a quick three and out by the Panthers on their first drive. Sean Weatherspoon was able to knock a third down pass away from a receiver that could have netted a first down for the Panthers. This play was the first of several big plays that the Falcons would make in the second half. The Falcons took their first drive of the second half and converted it into three big point off the foot of Matt Bryant. The Falcons defense was able to force a turnover on the Panthers next possession and would convert this turnover into seven points on another big play. The touchdown catch was arguably the biggest play of the game and it was made by the smallest guy on the field. The play was a simple play-action roll out that had Jacquizz Rodgers run a wheel route towards the corner of the endzone. Ryan made a great pass, leading Rodgers away from the defender for a touchdown. This was a big play as it made the score 23-17 early in the 3rd Quarter. The Falcons defense would later force another Newton turnover but would be unable to turn it into points.
Julio Jones was another player that stepped up in this game. In my last article, I was very critical with his play and his ability to make the big catch when he needed to. In this game he did. Julio showed why he is going to be a great talent for years to come when he made a great catch near the goal line and dove over a defender and scored what would eventually become the game winning score. Later in the game, with the Falcons still only up by one, Ryan connected with Jones deep over the middle for a long touchdown that would officially seal the win for the Falcons.
Matt Ryan would finish the game with one of his best Quarterback ratings of the year as he completed 22 of 38 passes for 320 yards and 4 touchdowns. Both Roddy White and Tony G. pulled in 7 catches for over 80 yards. Julio pulled down 3 catches for over 100 and 2 touchdowns. Turner added over 70 rush yards on 21 carries to lead the ground game. The defense picked up their game in the second half by forcing two Newton interceptions and held the explosive Panthers to zero points. All this led to a win that the Falcons needed to have in order to stay in the playoff picture.
Also, a noteworthy piece of information that I have found is that the Falcons have a chance this season to have three receivers go over one thousand yards receiving. Roddy is currently at 965 yards, Tony G. is sitting 812 and finally Julio Jones is presently at 670 yards. Roddy is a no doubter and Tony G. is on pace for right at one thousand yards. The only one is question is Julio Jones. In order for him to reach 1000 yards, he will need to average 110 yards a game over the next three which is very doable considering his big play ability. One can only imagine how many more he would have if he had not missed three games due to injury.