The Atlanta Falcons weren't just set on upsetting the Carolina Panthers in Week 11, they were set on completely dominating them. From beginning to end it was all Falcons, as they came away with their second straight win, downing the Panthers 29-3.
Matt Ryan was spectacular, completing 21 of 31 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. With this performance, he moved into the top 10 in all-time passing yards. He made the most of broken plays, kept drives alive and delivered accurate throws while getting hit in the pocket. Calvin Ridley was his leading receiver, as he caught eight passes for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Kyle Allen, on the other hand, had his worst day as a pro. He completed 31 of 50 throws for 325 yards and threw four interceptions. Allen has now thrown nine interceptions over the last four games. He continuously sailed throws over receivers' heads and they were usually picked off by Falcons defenders. Christian McCaffrey was again fantastic, and recorded 70 rushing yards and 121 receiving yards on 11 catches. According to Will Bryan of Panthers.com, McCaffrey is the first player in NFL history with over 1,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in the first 10 games of a season.
The real story of this game was the Falcons' defense. They pressured Allen all game and sacked him five times. Seemingly every time the Panthers looked like they were getting something going on offense, Atlanta's defense would find a way to pick Allen off or force a fourth down.
Why the Falcons won
Apparently switching around the titles of your assistant coaches is the correct way to turn a season around. While everybody was calling for Dan Quinn's job just a couple of weeks ago, the Falcons have now won two straight and are playing as if they are right in the playoff hunt, with Raheem Morris having been switched over the bye week from receivers coach to coaching the secondary. While Ryan has always been consistent, the defense has really stepped its game up. This unit has recorded 11 sacks over the past two weeks and are making their money off of pressuring the passer. On Sunday, they sacked Allen five times and forced four interceptions.
Why the Panthers lost
Carolina didn't play well on either side of the ball on Sunday, but it was the offense that was most concerning. The Panthers, even with an MVP candidate in McCaffrey, failed to score a single touchdown against a 2-7 team. While Allen got off to a hot start over the course of his first four starts this season, he has really struggled over the past four games, and his performance against the Falcons was his worst yet. He passed up on open receivers, overthrew targets, made bad decisions and looked uncomfortable in the pocket. The offensive line is definitely at fault for some of Allen's bad play, but their play isn't a defense for Allen's misfires -- and there were plenty on Sunday.
While the Falcons dominated the entire game, there was always some kind of hope that the Panthers would be able to mount a comeback. Carolina went for it on fourth down on its first drive of the second half, and failed to convert. The Falcons then took the ball 53 yards down the field on 10 plays and capped off the drive with a Ridley touchdown.
The score extended the Falcons' lead to 26 points, and how open Ridley was able to get on the play was just demoralizing if you consider yourself a Panthers fan. This was the knockout blow -- the one that silenced Bank of America Stadium for the rest of the afternoon.
Play of the Game
This had to feel good for a former Panther. After the Falcons had already secured a three-point lead and picked off Allen once, Kenjon Barner returned a punt 78 yards to the house to extend the lead to double digits. It was the longest punt return touchdown this season, and virtually put the Panthers away early.
The Panthers travel to New Orleans to take on the 8-2 Saints next Sunday. Drew Brees and Co. defeated the other NFC South team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34-17 in Week 11. In turn, the Falcons will try their luck at home next week against the Buccaneers.
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