Atlanta Falcons outlast Carolina Panthers to claim NFC South lead


The Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers played for the lead in the NFC South this Sunday afternoon. They were also both playing for their fourth win. That’s because to lead the NFC South, you only need four wins in week 11. This division is probably one of the worst in NFL history, and if the Falcons can’t take advantage of that, they will end up regretting it for a long time. However, in this game, they took advantage of some late luck and a good drive to finish out the game with a close, 19-17 win.

Actual gameplay on the field seemed to mirror the records of both teams in the first half. Neither team managed to put a touchdown on the board in 30 minutes of play, and neither team looked spectacular in any facet of their offense. The only reason the Falcons found themselves with a 6-3 at the half is because they have the better kicker in Matt Bryant. Who is the real Matty Ice on this Falcons team this year? If you polled the fans, I think that the majority would say Bryant, as he is responsible for the deciding points in two of Atlanta’s wins so far.

Third down conversions was a big part of the first half, or the lack thereof to be more honest. The Falcons were 2-6 on third down, and the Panthers were 3-7. No wonder all the points were so low early on in the game, since both teams were struggling to convert. Also, Carolina committed the first turnover of the game in the first quarter with a tipped pass that was intercepted, but the Falcons couldn’t convert as they went three-and-out on the ensuing drive. There are good defensive games, and there are bad defensive games. This was the latter, but the Falcons still held a slim lead at the half.

In the opening part of the third quarter, Atlanta caught a huge break when Cam Newton threw an easy interception to Desmond Trufant. Could the Falcons get a touchdown off a quick change with short yardage? Of course not, why would they make this easy? Instead, the drive stalled on a three-and-out again, and the Falcons were forced to kick yet another field goal to make it 9-3. The dangerous part of that was that it kept the Panthers within one score.

To say the game got chippy in the second half would be an understatement. The Falcons managed to score a touchdown with a Matt Ryan pass to Roddy White midway through the third quarter, making it 16-3 Falcons. However, after Carolina stalled again, and the Falcons got the ball back, they got into a melee fight with a bunch of Carolina players, causing a 15 yard penalty. Then, another penalty. Then Devin Hester fumbled the ball back to Carolina. Luckily, Cam Newton kept overthrowing receivers, and could never establish momentum in the third quarter.

Cam had a horrific day, but in the fourth quarter he finally found his legs, much to the dismay of the Falcons defense. After extending a drive by scrambling for a first down, Cam went deep to Kelvin Benjamin for the first Carolina touchdown of the day, making it 16-10 Falcons. If you didn’t start getting worried as a Falcons fan, you obviously didn’t watch the Detroit game. I had my Falcons “imminent collapse” parachute fully deployed. They issue one of those to every person that has to write about this franchise over the last two years. It’s black and red, and has numerous holes in it named after the Falcons offensive linemen.

And what happened? Why the Falcons gave the ball right back to Cam after getting only one first down. What did Cam do? One pass for 22 yards to Jericho Cotchery. One pass to Philly Brown for 47 yards and a touchdown. Boom goes the dynamite. The Falcons were suddenly down 17-16 with less than 7 minutes to go.

But the Falcons responded. Matt Ryan engineered a drive taking almost 5 minutes that ended with a Matt Bryant 44-yard field goal. That would be the Falcons back in front with a 19-17 lead in this see-saw affair. However, with two timeouts, and over two minutes left on the clock. That’s a lot of time. It’s even more time when the kickoff team gives up a return to the 40 yard line. Cam got them down to the 29 yard line in time for a field goal with just over a minute left. But luckily for the Falcons, the Panthers missed.

After timeouts by the Panthers, the Falcons still gave Carolina another shot inexplicably late with one second left on the clock. The Panthers tried a 63 yard field goal and had it blocked. Just like that, the Atlanta Falcons find themselves in first place of the dog food factory that is the NFC South. The joke’s on the NFL though, since the Falcons would get a home game if they can hold on. I’d rather be the worst playoff team ever than sitting at home in January.

Next up, the Atlanta Falcons play the Cleveland Browns at home. Can they put together a three-game winning streak? Do we dare to dream? I hope so. Rise up!