By Allison Smith @FalconAlley
Falcons 33 Panthers 16
What could be better than my Atlanta Falcons coming to my town for a big win on Christmas Eve? Well, while I am at church, we also clinch a playoff spot, then the NFC South.
The Falcons gave us fans a great game and big win, then they received gifts, with the Oakland Raiders win and the Arizona Cardinals defeating the Seattle Seahawks, to provide the Falcons a playoff spot, then 2nd place berth.
“Next Man Up” and “Brothership” were in full effect Saturday afternoon. With several players still out due to injury, many players stepped up to ensure another Falcons’ win. As always, the focus was on the ball and the Falcons won that with plus 2 in turnovers. And, to not confuse the situation, the Falcons scored their game average of 33 points.
The game started with a 4 minute 8 play drive for a Falcon touchdown. Head Coach Dan Quinn may never want the ball first, but when we get it and score it, it makes for a good start to the game. Although the game seemed close a few times, this opening drive really set the tone for the day.
The Panthers’ first drive included the successful conversion of a 4th and 1, however the next play was an interception….at that point, the Black and Red nation knew how the game was going to go. We knew that Santa loved us more, we do rep his red, black, and white after all.
It was a game of many firsts, as well. Two unknown tight ends scored their first NFL touchdowns. Two young defenders got their first NFL interceptions. It was raining Christmas presents all around.
Undrafted rookie Josh Perkins ran a smooth route, caught a 26-yard touchdown, and kept the ageless wonder, Thomas Davis, Sr., from stripping the ball. Meanwhile, 3 year TE DJ Tialavea, playing in his first game for the Falcons caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. With these two touchdowns, the Atlanta Falcons became the first team in NFL history to have touchdown passes to 13 different receivers.
Meanwhile, on the defensive side, another undrafted rookie, Brian Poole intercepted Cam Newton’s pass and returned it 24 yards which led to a Matt Bryant field goal. While 2nd year player, Jalen Collins, playing in only his 7th game of the season, also intercepted Newton which he returned for 37 yards. Collins’ interception did not lead to Falcons points, but did stop the Panthers from scoring before the half.
Once again, Matt Ryan distributed the ball well, his 277 yards on 27 passes going to 10 different receivers. And by “receivers,” that includes the running backs, Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman, combining for 80 yards and fullback, Patrick DiMarco, coming up with a big 6-yard catch to move the team within field goal range.
Julio Jones had 4 receptions for 60 yards, a long of 22, and a lethal stiff arm to Kurt Coleman; while Mohamed Sanu was just behind with 3 receptions for 56 yards, a big break of 28 yards. With a regular season game still to go, Ryan has passed for 4,613 yards and 34 touchdowns, with a 115.5 passer rating.
Coleman showed his explosiveness yet again this week with a long run of 55 yards in his total of 90 yards, and a rushing touchdown. Freeman accumulated a mere 53 yards this week.
The “Next Man Up” mentality not only refers to a player stepping in for an injured player, but also, whoever is asked to be the focus this week, steps up and plays. All season, when Julio has not been the target, he has drawn coverage, and laid out blocks. One week, Freeman carries the team, the next week, the focus is on Coleman. Taylor Gabriel has a big game, the next week, it is Sanu.
This is also the key to the “Brotherhood” now turned “Brothership” thanks to a misspeak by DiMarco. The “Brothership” is no one caring about their personal stats. There is ONE stat and that is continuing to increase the number in the win column. When someone scores a touchdown, they hand the ball to someone on the offensive line to spike, to show their appreciation to the unsung heroes of the offense.
The defense is coming alive, game by game. Currently, Vic Beasley, Jr. is the NFL sack leader with 14.5 sacks, while he did not get a sack on Newton this week, he did apply some good pressure. Ra’Shede Hageman had a sack, while Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw combined for another.
Rookie standout Deion Jones had 13 total tackles, with Collins being targeted numerous times, providing him with 6 solo tackles and good coverage on the top Panther receivers. Keanu Neal had good coverage during the day, but only 3 tackles, as he was injured early, but fought to return. Ricardo Allen and Paul Worrilow had 4 total tackles a piece. I cannot even imagine if these rookies improve at the same rate that Beasley did from his rookie to year 2.
Matt Bryant totaled 150 points so far with 4 successful field goals (one was blocked), a long of 51 on the day, and 3 successful extra points. Punter Matt Bosher punted 3 times, one of which was partially blocked and still ended with a 42.3 average on the day.
Overall, it was a beautiful Christmas Eve in Carolina and a great team win.
Injury Report: No significant injuries in the Carolina game, anyone banged up will not miss practice this week. Andy Levitre should be ready for Sunday, while De’Vondre Campbell and Austin Hooper are still listed as hopeful for Sunday.
Golden Talon: Who do you NOT give this to this week? This is an all-around team win. Raining Gold for EVERYBODY!
#RiseUp @FalconAlley Owt
Featured image ‘Clemson coming for you, Cam’ courtesy: Allison Smith/nflfemale
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