Atlanta Falcons win on defense, defeat Carolina Panthers


The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers to hand them their first loss of the season.

The Atlanta Falcons were given no hope. Just two weeks after being humiliated 38-0 by at Bank of America Stadium, the Falcons pulled off the improbable upset to hand the Carolina Panthers their first loss of the season, and first regular season defeat since November 2014.

The Panthers made it look easy on their opening drive, breezing down the field at will. Cam Newton strolled into the end zone for eight-yard touchdown. It looked like the Panthers were going to pick up where they left off two weeks ago.

But the Falcons had other ideas. Matt Ryan led a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped off with a 4-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman to tie it up. 

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The Falcons defense held firm throughout the first half, and they continued this into the third quarter, holding them to a Graham Gano field goal, making it 10-7.

Then all of a sudden, the momentum shifted Atlanta’s way. It was 3rd-and-13, and the Falcons had the ball on their own 30-yard line. Under pressure, Ryan rolled out to his left and fired deep to Julio Jones, who drew double coverage. Jones leapt into the air and made an incredible catch, and was able to turn around and sprint into the end zone for a 70-yard touchdown. The Falcons were up 14-10.

The Falcons continued to move the ball downfield and got close to field goal range. A touchdown would make it 21-10 with around 10 minutes remaining, but a play that started on the Carolina 37-yard line resulted in a Matt Ryan sack and fumble. The Panthers took over at the Atlanta 36-yard line.

The defense held firm, again, holding them to another Gano field goal to cut the Falcons’ lead to just one point.

Shayne Graham ended another Falcons drive with three, meaning the Panthers had to get a touchdown to keep their undefeated streak alive. The Panthers turned it over on down, leaving just 1:47 on the clock with one Carolina timeout remaining.

But in classic Falcons fashion, penalties stopped the clock and forced them to kick a field goal with 1:30 remaining.

But at a critical point, over came rookie Vic Beasley to strip the football out of the grasp of Cam Newton, and Adrian Clayborn was able to recover.

Ballgame. To beat the undefeated Panthers, the Falcons would need to play their best game of the year. It happened.