There was something in the air last night in Charlotte, N.C., when the Atlanta Falcons came to town and took down the Carolina Panthers, 25-17.  It just felt like “tonight was Matt Ryan’s turn.”  Thursday Night Football in the NFL showed that the season is far from being decided and that all teams still have a lot of work to do.

The Falcons Slip Past The Panthers

It wasn’t pretty, but the Falcons did come out with the victory, mostly thanks to putting up a stout defense in the second half that held the usually high scoring Panthers to a single field goal in the third quarter, even though Carolina was favored slightly in the NFC South matchup.

In the end, it was the Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo who put up most of Atlanta’s points, making three field goals in the second half while the Falcons D put a stop to Teddy Bridgewater and his potent offense.

The unexpected hero for the Panthers in the first half was Calvin Samuel, who rushed up the middle for 12 yards to score Carolinas first touchdown of the contest.  Then, it was Samuel once again who caught a 29-yard pass from Bridgewater for the second TD, which ended the Panthers scoring for the half.

The first half of the game was exciting and full of action, with Atlanta taking the lead with just seconds to go in the half, once again, on a Koo field goal.  The teams went into their locker rooms at halftime with the Falcons leading by a score of 16-14.

The Panthers Lose Their Momentum

Those fans who turned off the game and went to bed at halftime did not miss much.  Those who came back to see some more action in the second half were a bit disappointed.  Panthers fans were expecting to see more out of their new offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who won the Broyles Award for the best assistant coach in college football with the LSU national championship team last year.  But it just did not happen.

As predicted, it was raining throughout the game thanks to the remnants of hurricane Zeta passing the Carolinas, but it didn’t get muddy thanks to the artificial turf at the Panthers home stadium.  But the rain did not stop the great Julio Jones from making a big splash on his return to the Falcons active roster by racking up 137 receiving yards on seven receptions, the longest of which went for 28 yards.

Perhaps it was the return of their star wide receiver Julio Jones that inspired the Falcons to step up and win this game.  They have had the talent all year long but lacked the spark to hold the line and win a game after losing so many close ones already.

However, just as he has been doing for years now in Atlanta, Ryan, aka Matty Ice, stepped up with a nice rushing touchdown in the first half.  Although Ryan did not score a passing TD all evening, he did put up 281 yards passing while suffering two sacks and one interception in the process, but he won the game.

Bridgewater Shut Down

Stopping Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater and his elite cadre of receivers is no easy task, but, in the second half, the Atlanta D did just that.  Raheem Morris, who is now officially the head coach of the Falcons team, talked about his defense after the game, ‘That’s what we’ve been talking about, ending games with either sacks or interceptions, and the guys went out today and did exactly that’.

The game turned ugly in the second half when Teddy Bridgewater was sacked and took a late hit, helmet to helmet, that sent him to the sidelines and into the blue tent for concussion protocol.  It also led to Falcons defense end Charles Harris being ejected from the game.  Carolina running back Mike Davis, who has proven his worth stepping in for the injured Christian McCaffrey said after the game, “Yeah, I thought it was a cheap shot.  It was late, hit him on the neck.  You hate to see that.”

But the resilient Bridgewater once again showed that he is one of the toughest players in the NFL by going back in and finishing the game for the Panthers.