For all their faults, when the Atlanta Falcons are clicking on all cylinders, they’re a really, really fun team to watch. Sunday’s 20-13 win was one of those times, and it was without question their finest moment of the 2015 season.
We saw a productive Roddy White on offense, despite an opposing defender calling him a “fifth receiver” during the week. We saw Devonta Freeman running like a crazy person, evading defenders en route to big gains.
We had a chance to see Vic Beasley do what he was drafted to do: stay in Cam Newton’s face all day and make him uncomfortable.
And, finally, we had a chance to see Julio Jones torch anyone wearing a Panthers jersey that wanted to try their hand at defending him. Josh Norman, Luke Kuechly (pictured keister-up in the photo above), all of ’em.
Y’all, they made the Panthers look beatable. And then they were the first team to actually go out and do it.
This is the best we saw the Falcons all season. Yes, they were better than Weeks 1-5. They had to be, because they were playing the best team in the NFL.
They had to be nearly perfect in every facet of the game. Ryan was 23 of 30 for 306 yards and a touchdown pass – that touchdown pass. The Falcons were 9 of 16 on third down, which gave them chances to extend drives and keep the Carolina offense off the field.
The Falcons’ coaching staff has left a lot to be desired over the course of this roller-coaster season, but Sunday was one of their finest efforts, too. They figured out a way to make the league’s Most Valuable Player uncomfortable in the pocket for four quarters, knowing that was the only way they were going to win.
And I have to call one coach out by name: Kyle Shanahan. For once, the offensive coordinator did exactly what he should have all year – balance the offense, take a few shots downfield and get that Roddy White guy involved.
Also, how tough is the Falcons’ quarterback? Ryan could hardly stand up after taking a huge shot in the first quarter and never missed a play. I’ll never allow anyone to question his toughness, and Sunday’s display only confirmed that.
As a result of Sunday’s win, the Falcons will not be the first team in NFL history to start 5-0 and finish with a losing record. At worst, they’ll finish 8-8, which most fans would have taken at the beginning of the year. Rebuilding is rarely a quick process.
But when you get to have a day like Sunday, it makes all the frustrating losses go away for one afternoon.
Photo: AP/John BazemoreFollow @Sean_Breslin