Matt Ryan and company bounced back nicely after a tough road loss in the season opener, knocking off the Carolina Panthers 31-24 to get to 1-1.
Atlanta fans were in a frenzy after the ugly performance in the Thursday night opener, wondering if this team was even playoff-worthy in a loaded NFC. Sunday’s win over divisional-foe Carolina quickly calmed down the Atlanta faithful, as the offense posted 31 points on a normally stingy Carolina defense. Here’s three things we learned from the victory.
1. Offensive Line shines after shaky Week 1
One of the biggest takeaways from the loss to Philly was Atlanta’s offensive line getting bullied by Philly’s front seven. Matt Ryan was consistently under pressure, getting sacked four times and getting hit an incredible 15 times on the night. He was scrambling for a good amount of the game, which was one reason why Ryan had one of his worst games of his storied career.
In terms of run blocking, Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman totaled a mere 55 rushing yards on 15 carries, a pedestrian 3.67 yards per carry. Credit Philly’s front seven, which is one of the best front sevens in all of football. Still, Atlanta’s offensive line needed to hold their own, and they clearly didn’t on Thursday.
Sunday was a different story. The offensive line opened holes in the run game for Coleman, as he gashed the Panther’s defense time and time again. Coleman finished the afternoon with 107 rushing yards and 6.7 yards per carry average. Even rookie Ito Smith got in on the action, totalling 46 yards on nine carries.
The pass protection was also greatly improved. Ryan wasn’t sacked on the afternoon and was hit a mere two times. Breaking the protection down individually shows the improvement from week one. Between Jake Matthews, Alex Mack, Brandon Fusco and Ryan Schraeder the four went from allowing 18 pressures in week one to just three pressures in week two.
One thing to note, however, is that starting left guard Andy Levitre was placed on injury reserve after the win due to a triceps injury. This marks yet another major injury for the Falcons after having a healthy preseason. Backup Wes Schweitzer will step in at left guard and could create problems for Atlanta’s offense. His struggles have been well noted, but Schweitzer will now get another chance to prove himself worthy of a long-term starting gig along the offensive line.