Falcons win streak ends in ugly game against Panthers

Joe Carlino
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 31: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons fumbles the ball in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 31: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons fumbles the ball in the third quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Atlanta Falcons are in the midst of a wild time in the state of Georgia. The Bulldogs are No.1 in the first CFP ranking, the Hawks are flying high, and the Braves are one win away from their second World Series in franchise history.

Even more fun for the state’s sports teams? The Falcons were riding into Week Eight on a two-game winning streak and had a chance to not only improve to a plus-.500 record, but also a chance at waking up on November 1st second place in the NFC South.

However, all that came to a screeching halt, as the Falcons were dealt with two big pieces of information.

First off, star wide receiver Calvin Ridley announced, in the fourth quarter, that he would be stepping away from the game to focus on his mental health:

The other blow? With the aforementioned chances listed above, the Falcons looked absolutely listless against the divisional rival Carolina Panthers, losing 19-13 and falling below .500 once again on the season.

Honestly, this game looked ripe for the taking. Carolina was reeling, Atlanta was riding high, and on paper, the Falcons were a three-point favorite (although, in NFL lines, three points are always given to the home team, so it was a pick-em).

The Atlanta Falcons loss falls solely on the hands of two individuals.

However, this game falls legit on two people, one more so than the other. Those two are head coach Arthur Smith and quarterback Matt Ryan.

Let’s start with Smith. Throughout this contest, it appeared as though he was back to the conservative method we saw in the last home game, the loss against Washington. He routinely was calling running plays, most of which weren’t going for many yards.

Then, there was the drive before the end of the first half. Instead of attempting to try and push for a field goal, knowing that the team gets the ball out of the break, he ran two runs and a pass which turned into a run (more on that below).

The end result? Atlanta punted, Carolina drove into field goal range, and instead of a four-point lead into the lockers, it was only a one-point game, punctuated by the Panthers converting a 51-yard field goal.

Then, in the second half, it was much of the same. The offense couldn’t get into a rhythm, and the result was an offense that came into this contest averaging nearly 100 yards more than the Panthers looking as anemic as they did in Week One against the Eagles.

This leads us directly to the person who legitimately deserves more blame for the loss: Ryan. Coming into this contest, Ryan was “en Fuego”, with an astounding 10/1 touchdown-interception ratio. Yes, it was against mediocre competition, but still, a great stat line because we trust our quarterbacks to protect the football, and Ryan was, for the most part.

Early in this contest, it felt like Atlanta was going to ride strong. The first play of the game saw Deion Jones punch out the football from the Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard, and Ade Ogundeji recovered it. Unfortunately, the offense clearly wasn’t ready, and they had to settle for a field goal.

And while the Falcons also earned the first touchdown of the contest, a 15-yard strike from Ryan to do-it-all back Cordarrelle Patterson, the Panthers were playing fast and hard on defense, routinely getting pressure (four sacks) and a good amount of incompletions.

Ryan’s two turnovers (and almost third) doomed the Atlanta Falcons’ chances.

Furthermore, and this is where the real blame falls on Ryan, but he once again was directly responsible for two ghastly turnovers, and nearly a third too if his knee wasn’t down on the previously mentioned end of half drive.

Midway through the second quarter, Ryan threw a pass and was knocked down, and Panthers defensive end Morgan Fox stepped on his hand, resulting in a pretty nasty gash on everyone’s favorite finger: the middle one.

Now, one thing’s very debatable here: should Ryan have come out of the game and received treatment? The obvious answer would be yes; just look at that towel! That said, it’s also Ryan’s toughness and durability that (presumably) made him tell his coaches in the mic the only way he’s coming off the field is if the Panthers defense made them.

And, well, the Panthers did exactly that, as linebacker Shaq Thompson, who was returning from a foot injury, intercepted Ryan on a terrible read to Hayden Hurst. Now, also a possible reason: could the amount of blood loss have blurred his vision? Possibly, but that’s still not a justifiable response to this play.

A completely ridiculous decision by Ryan, especially when the film shows Kyle Pitts somewhat open for a possession catch/immediate hit and Lee Smith open as well. Ryan would receive the treatment needed and would play the second half with a black glove on his left hand.

Then, on the drive to end the half for the Falcons, Ryan was bailed out by the power of his knees. While he did juke yet another defender, this time Frankie Luvu (seriously, what the %$^) and nearly fumbled the ball inside his own 35.

Finally, the other turnover Ryan had was equally as bad, because it essentially derailed any final hopes of a last-minute rally and robbery of the victory.  Facing a first and 10 from the Carolina 30, Ryan was looking towards Pitts the entire time, and newly acquired cornerback Stephon Gilmore (also making his season debut off the PUP list) thanked Ryan by intercepting the pass. This was absolutely horrendous from Ryan, as it looked like maybe the Falcons would have a chance.

Instead, Carolina got the ball, the Falcons managed to make a field goal at the end by Younghoe Koo (who missed a 45-yarder wide right earlier in the game), and now they prepare for a game against the Saints in the Superdome next Sunday.

There was chatter about a possible Falcons playoff berth with the record entering this game. Those talks most likely will be put to rest with an 0-2 record in the division and a conference record of 1-5.

Watson fits in Atlanta. dark. Next