Atlanta Falcons report card after upset win over Panthers


The Atlanta Falcons upset the odds to hand the Carolina Panthers its first defeat of the season. Here’s the Falcons’ report card.

This is why the NFL is so great. The Atlanta Falcons were humiliated by the Carolina Panthers two weeks ago, dismantling them 38-0. But Sunday’s game inside the Georgia Dome was a different story completely. Dan Quinn’s team was fired up, and came away with a thrilling 20-13 victory.

Let’s take a look at the Falcons’ report card after Sunday’s victory.

Quarterback: A-

Up against one of the league’s premier defenses, Matt Ryan put in his best performance on the season. He completed 23 of his 30 passes with a touchdown and no interceptions. His lone mistake was on a strip sack, but it’s hard to pin all the blame on him. Ryan managed the game well and came up with a huge play to Julio Jones to shift the momentum.

Running backs: B+

Carolina is an excellent run-stopping defense, so Atlanta was always going to have its hands full, especially without Tevin Coleman. But Devonta Freeman ran hard, piling up 73 yards on the ground and finding the end zone once.

Wide receivers: A

Julio Jones was outstanding, reminding the world just how good he is. Jones hauled in nine passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, including the game-changing 70-yard score. Roddy White chipped in with five catches for 67 yards.

Tight ends: B

Jacob Tamme caught four passes for 29 yards and was an important piece to the offensive puzzle throughout the afternoon.

Offensive line: B

The offensive line allowed two sacks on Matt Ryan, with pressure resulting in a huge strip sack recovered by the Panthers. It was tough work opening running lanes against a strong run defense.

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Defensive line: C+

What was once the league’s No. 1 run defense has fallen away of late, and allowed 155 rushing yards and a touchdown from just 20 Carolina carries. The pass rush was improved slightly, and Vic Beasley clinched the game with his strip sack of Cam Newton.

Linebackers: C

The linebacker group is banged up. Justin Durant got hurt, again, although he did return to the game.

Secondary: A

The Falcons secondary was so much better than two weeks ago, when it was consistently burned by the Panthers. Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant combined for 12 tackles and three pass defenses, and the Panthers put up just 142 yards in the air.

Special teams: C

There wasn’t a whole lot of action for the special teams, but it wasn’t the usual consistency we’ve come to expect. Matt Bosher’s lone punt went for 25 yards. Shayne Graham missed a field goal from 43 yards.