Coming off of a last-second win over the Carolina Panthers, there is a lot to like and also a lot to dislike about how the Falcons performed. In the NFL you simply aren't going to go 16-0 and teams that you don't expect to challenge you will jump up and smack you in the mouth on occassion. That's what happened this week with the Panthers in the Georgia Dome. Let's take a look at the plus and minus of Sunday's performance by the Birds....
What to Like
- Dirk Koeter's use of different formations (Joe Hawley lining up at TE and at FB, Mike Johnson lining up at TE, Julio Jones dotting the I and Michael Turner lining up at FB). The Falcons saw some success with these formations in the first half and it's good to get stuff like this on tape just to make other teams have to prepare for additional things.
- Tony Gonzalez is ageless. So far in four games, Gonzalez has 26 receptions and is on pace for 100 for the season. He's still a go to guy when you need a big play or a third down conversion.
- Matt Ryan's ability to spread the ball around. The Falcons had five receivers with three or more catches (not including Julio Jones who had just one) whereas the Panthers had just two receivers with three or more catches.
- Matt Ryan's ability to change things on the fly. On the Michael Turner TD pass, he had to sling the ball side arm style to avoid an oncoming rusher.
- Michael Turner had a solid game as he surpassed the 100-yard mark on the ground and averaged 7.9 ypc. He also had a 60 yard reception that he took for a TD.
- The Matt Ryan/Roddy White combo.
- Pat Hill's mustache (I don't think this needs further explanation).
- The Falcons defense continues to cause turnovers and make plays when needed (Dunta Robinson's strip in the first, Stephen Nicholas getting early penetration and diving into Cam Newton on third and short at end of game and causing him to alter his body which in turn caused his fumble and John Abraham coming up with a game ending sack.
- Matt Bryant is automatic for the people. He's 9 for 9 this season as he booted two late, clutch field goals.
- The Falcons finished the drill at the end of both halfs. At the end of the first they scored and then stopped the Panthers and then at the end of the second half they stopped the Panthers twice and scored from their own one yard line in under a minute.
- There is no quit in the Falcons. Despite having their backs against the wall late in the fourth on offense and defense, both units came up with big plays that allowed the Falcons to come out victorious.
What to Dislike
- The Falcons struggled against the run. Was this a result of playing pass happy teams the last two weeks and using primarily a nickel defense in those games? Regardless, the Falcons had difficulty bottling up the Carolina running game and that is a concern. The Falcons also struggled to contain Cam Newton running the football in the second half. There aren't a lot of "running" QBs in the league but with RG3 coming up next week that is be a concern.
- Let a ten point lead evaporate in the second half.
- The Falcons let the Panthers dominate the football in the third quarter. The Falcons only ran nine plays in the third quarter which let the Panthers wear down the Falcons defense. It's a double-edged sword because they did have a quick-strike drive of three plays which is great but it also gives the ball right back to the Panthers.
- Inability to stop the Panthers pass rush. The Falcons allowed more sacks today than in the first three games combined. Tyson Clabo's hip was not 100% coming into the game and it showed as he and the rest of the OL had trouble containing Charles Johnson and the Panthers rush.
- Inability to stay with an athletic TE in Greg Olson. William Moore, who has been fantastic this year, struggled in coverage as Olson led the Panthers with 6 catches for 89 yards and added a TD.
- Third down defense. Overall the Falcons gave up 36% on third down conversions to the Panthers. That's not bad but what is bad is that the Falcons gave up two TDs on third down.