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Week 4 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 9, Carolina Panthers 24
What you need to know
The Falcons came into the game averaging 203 yards per game on the ground and 5.7 yards per attempt. Both of those numbers were good for the league lead. They also led the league with 19 runs of at least ten yards. Atlanta tried to establish a ground led ball control offense against the Panthers, but was unsuccessful. The Falcons totaled 118 yards rushing for a respectable 5.1 yards per attempt. However, 40 of those came on one run by Jerious Norwood. Michael Turner, the NFL's leading rusher struggled to find much running room and totaled only 56 yards on his 18 attempts. Turner's long run was a ten yard gain after Atlanta trailed by 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Due to their struggles on the ground, Matt Ryan was forced to attempt a career high 41 passes. He completed 21 of them for only 158 yards. Ryan showed poise, but was unable to lead the Falcons to a touchdown. Ryan did his best work of the game running the no-huddle offense on Atlanta's second possession. The no huddle offense clearly had the Panthers' defense off balance as Ryan led the Falcons from their 20 yard line all the way to the Carolina 15 by mixing in short passes with running plays. However, the drive stalled and Atlanta settled for a field goal. The Falcons never penetrated any deeper during the remainder of the game and would manage only two more field goals.
Atlanta's defense did a good job of limiting the Carolina running game, but struggled to stop the Panthers' passing attack. Jake Delhomme completed 20 of 29 passes for 294 yards. Delhomme had the time to look downfield and frequently found Muhsin Muhammad a step ahead of rookie cornerback, Brent Grimes. While Atlanta focused its coverage on Steve Smith, Muhammad had eight catches for 147 yards and a touchdown.
John Abraham blocked a punt after a bobbled snap that led to Atlanta's second field goal.
The Panthers went 80 yards on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead and never trailed. The Carolina defense did a nice job of shutting down Atlanta's league leading rushing attack. However Carolina's sloppy play and mistakes helped Atlanta to stay in the game. The Panthers committed eleven penalties in the game. Many of them were costly. Carolina's first penalty (a questionable roughing the passer call on Julius Peppers) negated Richard Marshall's 29 yard interception return for a touchdown. Atlanta's second drive was helped by two separate personal fouls and resulted in a field goal. Later, the Panthers had twelve men on the field when Jason Elam missed a 49 yard field goal. Elam made good on his second chance from 44. Jason Baker also bobbled a snap and had a punt blocked that led directly to a Falcon field goal. Despite Carolina's domination, the contest was a one possession game until the fourth quarter.
Jake Delhomme was sharp throughout the contest. He completed 69 percent of his passes for 294 yards. Delhomme focused the passing attempts on his two starting wide receivers, Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad; nearly 77 percent of his attempts were directed at them. Muhsin Muhammad had his best game since he was last with the Panthers in 2004. Muhammad hauled in eight passes for 147 yards and a touchdown. Steve Smith drew the focus of Atlanta's coverage, but still caught six passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
As has been the pattern so far this season, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart split the rushing attempts. Williams had 16 carries for 57 yards, while Stewart had 14 runs for 52 yards. So far, Stewart has received the opportunities when Carolina is near the end zone. His eight yard run opened the scoring and is his fourth touchdown in his young career.
Carolina lost both of their starting tackles during the game. However, the line played well and allowed no sacks. However, Carolina has been guilty of a league leading 15 false starts so far this season.
The win was the 100th in the history of the Panthers.
What you ought to know
|QB Matt Ryan, Pass: 21 - 41 - 158 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 11 - 0|
Ryan was forced to put the ball in the air a career high 41 times as Atlanta was unable to establish much success on the ground. Ryan showed good composure, but is not at the stage of his career where he can carry the Falcon offense. Ryan looked good when the Falcons surprised the Panthers by going to the no-huddle offense during their second drive. He efficiently managed the team by mixing in runs and short passes and led the Falcons to a field goal. Afterwards, Atlanta curiously ran very little no huddle until late in the game.
Ryan showed good arm strength, but most of his passes were relatively conservative. His longest completion went for 23 yards. Ryan's second attempt of the game was nearly catastrophic; it was intercepted and returned 29 yards for a touchdown by Richard Marshall, but the play was negated by a roughing the passer penalty on Julius Peppers.
|RB Michael Turner, Rush: 18 - 56 - 0, Rec: 1 - -1 - 0 (3 targets)|
Turner entered the game leading the league in rushing yardage. He struggled to find room to run on the Panther defense and finished with 56 yards on 18 attempts. Turner's long run went for 19 yards. Turner was targeted three times as an outlet receiver. His lone reception lost a yard. Turner dropped another swing pass attempt, but likely would have lost yardage on that play had he caught it.
|RB Jerious Norwood, Rush: 3 - 51 - 0, Rec: 4 - 1 - 0 (5 targets)|
Norwood had only three rushing attempts. However, he was more effective than Turner in the game. Norwood's 40 yard scamper was Atlanta's longest play of the game. Norwood was often deployed as a single back, when Atlanta went to a three receiver set. That formation seemed to open up more running room, but for some reason, Norwood was only given three chances. Norwood's four receptions netted only one yard. He dropped his other target.
Norwood returned two kickoffs for 36 yards.
|RB Jason Snelling, Rec: 1 - 11 - 0 (1 targets)|
Snelling made the first reception of his career on a nicely executed screen pass that gained 11 yards.
|WR Roddy White, Rec: 7 - 90 - 0 (17 targets)|
White was targeted nearly three times as much as any Falcon receiver and is clearly Ryan's favorite choice. White managed to catch six passes for 90 yards, including the Falcon's two longest completions of 23 and 22 yards. White had some difficulty keeping his footing in the game. One one play, he slipped to his knees as he cut and Ryan's pass hit him on his shoulder pad. On another, he fell to his knees, but still caught the pass. White ran hard after the catch; on one occasion he broke a tackle and gained 13 yards afterwards.
|WR Michael Jenkins, Rec: 3 - 32 - 0 (5 targets)|
Jenkins was not targeted until after half time, when he hauled in three passes for 32 yards. Jenkins caught a pass in the end zone, but was out of bounds; Ryan overthrew the ball slightly and did not give Jenkins much chance.
|WR Brian Finneran, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (5 targets)|
Finneran, who was playing for the injured Laurent Robinson, caught two five yard passes. He dropped a pass that would have set Atlanta up with a third and short on a drive that stalled in Carolina territory.
|WR Harry Douglas, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (6 targets)|
Douglas caught two short passes for eight yards. One of the receptions was a nice grab in traffic, but Douglas also dropped two passes, including a key one that would have given Atlanta a first down in Carolina territory. He was the targeted receiver on Matt Ryan's intercepted pass that resulted in a touchdown for Carolina. However, the play was negated by a penalty.
|TE Ben Hartsock, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)|
Hartsock made his second reception of the season on his only target. He was also guilty of a false start penalty.
|PK Jason Elam 3 - 3 FG, 0 - 0 XP, 9 points|
Elam provided all of Atlanta's points. His three field goals give him 24 consecutive successful attempts. However, he originally missed a 49 yard attempt, but made good on a second chance after a Panther penalty.
|ATL Rush Defense|
The Falcons run defense did a respectable job of limiting Carolina's rushing attack. Neither DeAngelo Williams nor Jonathan Stewart ran wild, but both were effective at times. Stewart, in particular was adept at breaking the tackles of Atlanta defenders. He broke a tackle on his eight yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Williams was held mostly in check, but had a nice 21 yard gain.
Rookie middle linebacker Curtis Lofton had seven solo tackles and an assist.
|ATL Pass Defense|
Jake Delhomme mostly had his way with the Falcons secondary. The Falcons focused much of their coverage on Steve Smith. As a result, Muhsin Muhammad was shadowed mostly by rookie Brent Grimes. Muhammad responded with his best game since 2004. Atlanta's secondary was not helped by the pass rush, which registered no sacks and little pressure on Delhomme, despite the fact that the Panthers played a most of the game without their starting left tackle, Jordan Gross, and would later lose Jeff Otah, their right tackle, as well.
|QB Jake Delhomme, Pass: 20 - 29 - 294 - 2 TD / 0 INT|
Delhomme had his most efficient game of the season. He finished with 294 passing yards, averaging 10.1 yards per attempt, for a 124.8 rating. Delhomme looked often for his starting wide receivers and frequently found them open downfield. Delhomme's two touchdowns were his first since week one. He benefitted from great protection by his offensive line, which did not allow a sack.
Delhomme made only one potentially bad decision. He tried to lob a pass to Smith, but must not have seen the safety. Fortunately, the ball, Smith and the Falcon safety arrived at the same time and the pass fell incomplete.
|QB Josh McCown, Rush: 3 - -2 - 0|
Backup quarterback Josh McCown was credited with two yards lost on three kneel down plays.
|RB DeAngelo Williams, Rush: 16 - 57 - 0, Rec: 2 - 9 - 0 (2 targets)|
Williams started the game and split carries with Jonathan Stewart. Williams was mostly contained, but did have a pretty 21 yard run in the second half. On the play, he ran hard and broke two tackles. Williams caught two passes for nine yards.
|RB Jonathan Stewart, Rush: 14 - 52 - 1|
Stewart split carries with DeAngelo Williams. He is the harder runner of the two and showed an ability to break tackles. Stewart scored the first touchdown of the game on an eight yard run. The play started to the middle, but Stewart broke a tackle and bounced it outside, exhibiting ample speed to get to the corner.
Stewart also returned three kickoffs for 60 yards.
|WR Muhsin Muhammad, Rec: 8 - 147 - 1 (10 targets)|
Muhammad had his first 100 yard game since 2006 and his best receiving totals since his last year as a Panther in 2004. Muhammad benefitted from the attention Steve Smith drew from Atlanta's secondary. He made tough catches in traffic and was able to get downfield as well. He also showed some nifty running skills by making two defenders miss on one play. Muhammad's long reception was a 36 yard touchdown. He was wide open down the seam after the defensive back bit on his out move. Muhammad made a nice sideline grab and got his feet down for a 14 yard gain. He also lost a 17 yard reception to an illegal formation penalty. Muhammad had his hands on both of his other targets, but was unable to haul the passes in. Both were high passes and tough chances. Muhammad was credited with a delay of game penalty after spiking the ball following a nicely thrown fade down the sideline.
Muhammad's touchdown was his 45th as a Panther and moves him past Wesley Walls for first place on Carolina's all time list.
|WR Steve Smith, Rec: 6 - 96 - 1 (13 targets)|
Smith drew much of the attention of the Atlanta defenders. Still, he was targeted a team high 13 times. Like Muhammad, Smith was effective. However, he was deployed on more short routes than Muhammad was. Smith did score on a 56 yard touchdown reception. The pass came on a deep in route. Smith caught the ball, then broke a tackle and was off to the races for Carolina's longest play of the season. Delhomme targeted Smith on a deep go route, but underthrew the pass. Smith passed 6,000 career receiving yards on the day.
|WR D.J. Hackett, Rec: 2 - 24 - 0 (2 targets)|
Hackett caught two 12 yard passes in the game.
|TE Dante Rosario, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (3 targets)|
Rosario contributed two receptions for 18 yards.
|TE Jeff King|
Starting tight end Jeff King was not targeted in the game. He was often kept in to help with pass protection.
|PK John Kasay 1 - 1 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 6 points|
Kasay hit his only field goal attempt from 44 yards. He remains perfect on the season. English kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd kicked three touchbacks during the game and has nine so far this season.
|CAR Rush Defense|
The Falcons entered the game leading the NFL with 203 rushing yards per game. The Carolina run defense played well in limiting the Falcons to 118 yards. Other than a 40 yard run by Jerious Norwood, the run defense gave up very little. Norwood's is the only run of over 20 yards against the Panthers this season. Atlanta struggled to maintain drives and was forced to go to the air more than they would have liked. Jon Beason led the unit with seven solo tackles.
|CAR Pass Defense|
Matt Ryan attempted 41 passes, but completed only 21 of them for 158 yards. The Falcons were limited to mostly short passes; Atlanta's longest gain through the air was 23 yards. Julius Peppers and rookie Hilee Taylor contributed sacks. Richard Marshall had a 29 yard touchdown interception called back by a roughing the passer penalty on Peppers. Though it was a questionable call, Peppers' helmet did contact Ryan's. Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall each contributed six solo tackles.