The Atlanta Falcons’s 33-16 win over the Carolina Panthers reinforced a lot of what we know about the NFC South Champions.
If you’re like all of us here at Blogging Dirty, you had a wonderful Holiday weekend. Before celebrating Christmas, we all enjoyed the Atlanta Falcons’ convincing Christmas Eve win over a division rival. The rival was the Carolina Panthers and the convincing win was a 33-16 dismantling of last year’s NFC champion.
Atlanta has now placed themselves in a position few thought possible before the season.
Atlanta has now placed themselves in a position few thought possible before the season. They are now only one victory away from claiming the 2-seed in the NFC and a coveted first-round bye. This is all courtesy of the dominate performance in Carolina and some help from another type of bird in the Northwest.
It was clear from the outset that the Atlanta Falcons had a big edge against the Panthers. The team knows they are on the cusp of something special and continued to take advantage at Carolina.
Atlanta Defense > Cam Newton
Most of Carolina’s offensive failure were due to Cam Newton’s high throws and poor decisions, but credit the Atlanta Falcons’ defense for frustrating the Panthers. The reigning MVP was far from jolly on Christmas Eve. Newton was 18-43 with 198 yards en route to one of the worst games of his career.
Atlanta’s defense played well over the last few weeks and continue to turn ‘it’ on for the postseason run. The secondary in particular played very well, as Jalen Collins and Brian Poole collected their first career interceptions.
They’re better with a healthy Julio
It wasn’t necessarily a sight for sore eyes, but it was nice to have Julio Jones back in the lineup. After completely torching the Panthers in their first meeting, Jones came back down to earth a tad in this one. His four catches for 60 yards led the Falcons in receiving, but just having him out on the field made the offense more potent.
Having a fully healthy team is a luxury few teams have so late into the season. Its certainly nice to see the Atlanta Falcons heal up just in time for the playoffs.
Dynamic Duo at Running Back
Once again, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman posed a litany of problems for the opposing defense on Saturday. The duo combined for 152 yards on 24 carries and caught 11 passes for 80 yards. Teams that can get 200 total yards from their backfield alone can expect to win on any day. The play of the game for me was Coleman’s 3rd and 21 conversion, as it showed just how damaging a simple bubble pass can be to a back with his type of speed. Of course, Coleman topped himself the very next play with a 55-yard touchdown scamper.
Matt Ryan deserves to be the league’s Most Valuable Player…no conversation required. Ryan entered Saturday on the best season of his career and kept it going with 27 completions for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns. He has now completed touchdown passes to an NFL record,13 different receivers. Matt Ryan is every reason the Falcons are in position to claim the NFC’s 2-seed this Sunday. His play on the field compounded with his poise has made all the difference for this team.
Last year, Ryan played some of the worst football in his career. 2015 was so bad that many felt it would be best for the Falcons to find their next quarterback. All I can say is, what a difference a year makes.
Poise and Confidence
In the win over the Panthers, Atlanta never seemed to panic and got the job done on the road. Carolina kept the game within 10 points in the 2nd quarter but not once did it feel like the Falcons would lose. There’s just something about the way the 2016 Falcons have carried themselves.
In past seasons, the Falcons have always been the team to self-destruct by way of incompetence and lack of focus. That is not at all the identity of the 2016 Falcons. This team is pretty darn good and they know it. Sounds trivial, but this is a huge step for this franchise, which could be in the midst of their best season ever.