The Carolina Panthers visited the Atlanta Falcons for an NFC South showdown. The Panthers were coming off a win over the Dallas Cowboys, while the Falcons were coming off of a tough loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in week one. Both teams came into this game with big injuries to starters and questions about how they would deal with them. The Falcons went into this game with motivation to not start the season with a 0-2 record. The Panthers were hoping to start their divisional record with a win. In the end the Falcons topped the Panthers 31-24 in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In game one, the offense as a whole did not live up to expectations for the 2018 season. In this game, the Falcons offense silenced all of their critics with an impressive performance. The Falcons offense looked very similar to the 2016 offense that went to the Super Bowl. Matt Ryan used all of his weapons and was able to spread the football around the field. Ryan had one possession where he completed six passes to five players and none of their names were Julio Jones. The quarterback was able to run for an eight-yard touchdown and for the first time in his 10-year career he rushed for two touchdowns in a game.
A big story on the offensive side of the ball leaving this game was the impact of the rookie duo of Calvin Ridley and Ito Smith. Ridley acquired his first NFL touchdown in the first half. He led the team in receiving yards with four receptions for 64 yards and averaged 16 yards a carry. The rookie running back, Ito Smith was used as back up for Tevin Coleman who stated for the injured Devonta Freeman. Smith stepped up and proved to Falcons fans why he earned his roster spot. Coleman also had a huge game, picking up a 107-yard game in only 11 carries.
The defense was a big worry for the Falcons having no Keanu Neal or Deion Jones coming into the game. To add insult to injury, Damontae Kazee was ejected in the second quarter on a helmet-to-helmet hit on the quarterback, Cam Newton. The defense did give up a few chunk plays to the running back, Christian McCaffrey who ended the game with 14 receptions for 102 yards. They also allowed Newton to rush for 42 yards.
The defense was able to get a large amount of pressure on Newton throughout the game. There were 2 sacks in the game by Brian Poole and Takk McKinley. Ricardo Allen also got an interception that gave his offense some momentum. The defense did not have a dominating performance, but they did stop the Panthers getting consistent positive plays.
The Final Word
With much adversity, the Falcons rallied together to work hard for their injured starters on the sidelines. The Falcons have to get right back to work because they have another important divisional test in the New Orleans Saints next week. The Saints, who escaped with a win over the Cleveland Browns this week, will visit Atlanta on September 23, 2018.