By Michael Brennan
The dust has finally settled in the Georgia Dome after the stunning upset orchestrated by the Atlanta Falcons (4-0). The Falcons drove the ball 77 yards in the final minute to shock the Carolina Panthers (1-3) and remain unbeaten.
On the first play of the Falcons final drive Roddy White caught a 59 yard bomb from quarterback Matt Ryan, who was standing at back of his own end zone, to put Atlanta in Carolina territory. A few intelligent completions from Ryan and the Falcons were in position to take the lead with less than 10 seconds remaining. Atlanta Falcon Kicker, Matt Bryant, then put a 40 yard field goal through the up-rights to propel Atlanta to 4-0.
Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers performed beyond expectation and gave one of the NFL’s best teams a tough test at home. Newton completed 15 of 24 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton also established a new career best on the ground running for 86 yards and one touchdown.
The Panther defense also found a good rhythm despite a successful day for the Atlanta offense. Charles Johnson, who had struggled in his three previous games, compiled 4.5 sacks and helped to disrupt an always threatening Matt Ryan. Ryan was sacked seven times on the day and was hit hard nine times.
Ryan completed 25 of 40 passes for three touchdowns and one interception. Ryan hooked up with receiver White for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Michael Turner also had a stand-out performance with 13 carries for 103 yards. Turner also added a 60-yard touchdown reception to his resume. Turner, who has been in the league since 2004, had not previously had a touchdown reception in his career.
The Panthers secondary, which was rattled last week against the New York Giants, performed much better against the Falcons. The secondary was able to get adjusted because of the pressure throughout the game from the Charles Johnson and the Carolina front four; the defense even forced an interception out of Ryan, his second of the season.
Ryan and the Falcons showed the poise and the power that they need to carry them deep into the playoffs. As for Carolina, they showed sparks of their capability throughout the game and can use their near upset to build for their home game next week when the Seattle Seahawks visit Charlotte, NC.