The Atlanta Falcons concluded their 2018 regular season debut the same way their season ended in the Divisional round of the playoffs last season. Fourth and goal with a chance to take the lead, Matt Ryan throws the ball to Julio Jones. This time Julio came down with the ball, but he was out of bounds. Some will say that Steve Sarkisian’s play-calling was bad in this game, but it came down to the execution by the players. Atlanta’s defense played well, but Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending ACL tear and then Deion Jones was placed on IR due to a foot injury alongside Neal. It was reported that Jones will miss a minimum of eight weeks. Atlanta signed DE Steven Means, LB Corey Nelson, and S Keith Tandy. Now let’s dive into some stats you should know for the showdown against the Carolina Panthers
Ryan had a rough go in the season debut. He had some errant throws, and missed several opportunities to hit open receivers. On the Falcons first red zone drive Devonta Freeman was lined up in the slot, one-on-one with Nathan Gerry. Ryan narrowly missed him for the score. Later in the game Jones had Jalen Mills one-on-one. Mills loves to bite on double moves, and Julio is one of the best route runners in the game. Julio hit Mills with a double move and was free, running down the sideline. Ryan stepped up to evade pressure and led his throw outside instead of inside. Jones bobbled the ball and it was ruled not a catch near the sideline. However consensus was that it was a catch, a missed call by the refs.
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) September 7, 2018
Ryan had arguably his worst game as a pro, but I have no doubt in my mind that he will be back to form against the Panthers. The Eagles front seven is as good as it gets and now the dirty birds are back home taking on a division rival. Per PFF, since 2013 whenever Matt has had a game with a score of 50 or lower, the next week he has followed it up with a score in the mid 70’s or higher.
Falcons lead the all-time series
The NFC South became a division in 2002. Since it became a division Atlanta holds a record of 28-18 against the Panthers. Since Cam Newton was drafted Matt Ryan holds a 8-6 record against them. The only team to win the division in back-to-back seasons is Carolina when they were crowned three years in a row across the 2013-2015 seasons. In 2015 when Cam Newton won MVP and OPOY the Panthers went 15-1 and ultimately lost in the Super Bowl. That one regular season loss, was the Falcons. In 2016, Ryan and Jones both had career games against the Panthers. Ryan threw for 503 yards and 4 touchdowns, while Julio had 300 receiving yards along with one score.
“Since Matt Ryan has entered the league when his defense allows 0-18 points a game Ryan is 51-9 as a starter. Three of those losses have come since (12/3/17),” per Scott Kascmar via twitter. Over his career, Matt Ryan has a regular season record of 99-70. Of those 169 games his record at home is 56-28, while on the road he is 43-42. It just goes to show how poor Atlanta’s defense has been during Ryan’s tenure. Ryan has shown he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but had a very underwhelming performance on the road against the reigning Super Bowl Champions.
The fan base was calling for Steve Sarkisian’s job after the Falcons week one performance, but the play-calling wasn’t entirely the issue. The team lacked discipline and execution. Atlanta had 15 penalties for 135 yards, which was the most across the league in week one. During the broadcast of the Falcons vs Eagles game when Atlanta had 14 penalties, a graphic showed it was their most since November 28th, 1999. That game was against the Panthers.
The new roughing the passer penalty has shown to be called inconsistently through week one. Grady Jarrett tackled Nick Foles and was called for roughing, while Chris Long tackled Ryan almost identically, but it wasn’t called. It is a bang-bang play for the refs, but it needs to be more consistent. A lot of people thought the new helmet rule would be an issue, but it proved to be the roughing the passer rule.
“In 256 games last NFL season, there was only one game with 24 or more penalties — the Tampa Bay-Miami game in Week 11 when the Tony Corrente crew called 26 penalties for 205 yards. The 2018 season opener between the Falcons and the Eagles featured 26 penalties for 236 yards,” Rick Gosselin tweeted. I doubt Atlanta will commit anywhere near the amount of penalties they did in week one again anytime soon.
This week will be huge for Atlanta as they open division play against the Panthers. Carolina beat the Cowboys last week, while Ryan Fitzpatrick out dueled Drew Brees in a shootout in New Orleans. Look for Ryan to have a bounce back week and for Calvin Ridley to be more involved in the offense. The Panthers offensive line is nowhere near as good as the Eagles. Luke Kuechly was injured in the game against the Cowboys, so he may be hobbled this week, giving the Falcons offense a better chance.
This isn’t the way the Falcons or their fans wanted the season to start. The 2016 MVP is surrounded by his best offense since he was drafted by Thomas Dimitroff. Will the defense keep the next man-up mentality as they did in 2016 when Trufant went down?
It’s a prime opportunity for players to seize an opportunity to make their name known. The brotherhood is strong and the Falcons will rise up to victory this week.