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Week 11 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 29, Carolina Panthers 3

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Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta’s defense sacked Kyle Allen during the first three drives, all from the right side of Carolina’s front—and earned four sacks overall in the first half and five for the day. Takk McKinley had two of those three sacks, injuring his shoulder at the end of the first quarter but he returned in the second half. Atlanta’s defense also had four consecutive stops on third-down attempts in as many series and two fourth-down stops during the third quarter, including a great team effort against Christian McCaffrey from the I-formation on a fourth-and-short. Atlanta intercepted Kyle Allen four times—three times inside the Atlanta five and all pressure-induced. Atlanta’s special teams also got into the act when Kenjon Barner returned a punt 78 yards for the first touchdown of the game. Matt Ryan and Calvin Ridley had a strong afternoon. Ryan made a pair of huge throws under pressure in the first half, including a deep shot to Julio Jones that set up a first and goal plunge by Qadree Ollison from inside the two with less than two minutes left, extending the first-half lead by 20. Ryan routinely found Ridley throughout the afternoon, including a 42-yard fade route while under heavy pressure early in the fourth quarter. Although Barner and Ollison were more productive during the first three quarters, the Panthers were dead-set on stopping Hill and Barner and Ollison were earning opportunities in scheme-friendly situations. If not for a questionable holding call, Hill would have had a touchdown after some nice closeout carries in the fourth quarter.

Carolina Panthers

Kyle Allen crashed back to earth in devastating and humiliating fashion, dooming the Carolina offense with poor decisions and costly red zone turnovers. Atlanta’s pass rush deserves credit for harassing Allen and rushing him at times, but Allen’s pocket presence and immaturity let him down. He looked nothing like the confident passer who took over in Week 3. Christian McCaffrey was the offense’s spark plug as usual, but he mostly fed on underneath passes, with the Panthers forced to get away from the ground attack due to the huge deficit on the scoreboard. D.J. Moore stood out among the receivers, coming close to breaking away on one play for what would have been a 70+-yard touchdown. Curtis Samuel was largely shut down by an outstanding Atlanta secondary, while Greg Olsen continued to show good chemistry with his quarterback. Defensively, Carolina showed very little and, if this pattern continues, more game scripts such as this one will be on the horizon.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 21 - 31 - 311 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 0 - 0
He began the game with the conversion of the third-down on an easy slant against off coverage to reach the Atlanta 40 and followed up with a tough throw under heavy pressure from Bruce Irvin on a play-action comeback to a wide-open Calvin Ridley for 34 yards to cross midfield. Mario Addison earned his eighth sack with a tackle of Ryan in the red zone during Atlanta’s second drive, setting up a second field goal attempt from 38 yards that he missed off the right upright. Ryan had just enough time to look at one read before Addison wrapped him. Ryan seemed reticent for two third-down throws in a row to target the middle of the field when Carolina used two high safeties and on the second attempt, Shaq Thompson nearly picked off Ryan’s check-down attempt to the flat. Ryan found Calvin Ridley on consecutive passes to cross midfield during a fourth drive and nearly delivered a scoring pass on a scramble to his right to Russell Gage who dropped the ball after contact from safety Tre Boston. Ryan returned to Gage over the middle while climbing the pocket from pressure, leading to a first down inside of the two-minute warning. On the next play, Gerald McCoy sacked Ryan for a loss of six after the line gave up quick pressure. He followed up with a deep seam to Julio Jones matched with Luke Kuechley for 47 yards with Mario Addison in his face. Ryan found Ridley for a six-yard score to go up by 26 after climbing from pressure and sliding to his left midway through the third quarter. Dontari Poe sacked Ryan to end a third-quarter drive near midfield—the third Carolina sack of the afternoon on Ryan. Ryan once again delivered under pressure in the fourth quarter, hitting Ridley on a fade for 42 yards.

RB Brian Hill, 39 offensive snaps, Rush: 15 - 30 - 0, Rec: 1 - 8 - 0 (3 targets)
Replacing Devonta Freeman as the starter, Hill earned minimal gains during the first three quarters of this game due to constant penetration from Carolina defense. He began from the I-formation to begin the game and Kenjon Barner replaced him in a second-and-long passing situation. Hill lost a yard up the middle to begin Atlanta’s second series. On the next play, he took a check-down up the seam and split a pair of linebackers for eight yards before exiting the game on third and short. Hill struggled through penetration two plays later for a gain of one. Once again, Atlanta tried to ram Hill up the middle for the third consecutive time to begin a drive and only earned a yard. Hill took the ball off left guard on the next play for four yards, fighting through contact to push for the gain. Hill pushed his way for three yards up the middle on a second-and-four midway through the second quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, Hill once again took an I-formation run up the middle that Carolina was ready for with penetration that tripped Hill up for no gain. Hill earned 3-4 up the middle in the fourth quarter and then bounced out a second-and-seven play to right end for 11 yards to get inside the Carolina 5. Hill then spun off two tackles and pushed his way to the Carolina one. Hill made a nice cut for the score on the next play but a questionable holding call nullified the carry.

RB Qadree Ollison, 12 offensive snaps, Rush: 4 - 11 - 1 (1 targets)
Ryan rushed a check-down that he tossed well behind Ollison with less than two minutes left in the half, leading to a third-and-long. Ollison scored off right guard with less than two minutes left in the half. He dropped his pads on Eric Reid for a few yards of right end to set up a second-and-goal in the middle of the third quarter. Ollison fumbled a carry late in the game on his first carry of the fourth quarter but Atlanta recovered the loose ball.

RB Kenjon Barner, 14 offensive snaps, Pass: 1 - 1 - 3 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 2 - 15 - 0
He outgained Brian Hill in this game for the first three quarters because Atlanta used him on draw plays on second-and-long runs after Carolina would stop Hill on the play before with penetration and run-oriented defense on first downs. He returned a punt up the middle and then up the left sideline for a 78-yard score late in the first quarter. He did a great job reversing field to the middle after the catch and then weaving his way to the boundary. He earned seven yards with a nice spin move against the linebacker on a draw play to get Atlanta into the red zone midway through the second quarter.

WR Calvin Ridley, 52 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 143 - 1 (8 targets)
He earned a throwback off play action across midfield for 34 yards. He was wide open and made the catch as he exited the boundary. Ridley earned a first-down near midfield on a 12-yard gain over the middle and followed up with a corner route on the next play for 26 yards against man coverage, earning a great release on the cornerback. Ridley earned an over-the-shoulder target up the flat to reach the Carolina 22 midway through the third quarter but ran gingerly off the field after the play. Ridley returned later in the drive to catch an anticipation throw to the left sideline in the back of the end zone to go up 26. Ridley ran the diamond release into a slant, making a diving catch early in the third quarter for nine yards on s2nd and 10. He followed up on a fade for 42 on a perfect throw from Ryan under pressure.

WR Julio Jones, 53 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - -4 - 0, Rec: 6 - 91 - 0 (8 targets)
He gained three yards on a third-and-seven crossing route before taking a hard hit, setting up an opening-drive, 38-yard field goal. Jones converted a third-and-short for a gain of four yards on a pivot route to the left flat during Atlanta’s second series. The catch got Atlanta inside the Carolina 20. Jones caught a deep dig to kick off a fourth series early in the second quarter, getting Atlanta to its 39. Jones earned a short past in the flat for five yards to reach the Carolina five and set up a third and four. Jones earned nearly 50 up the seam with a catch over his shoulder with Luke Kuechley tight to his side, setting up a scoring plunge from the two to earn a 20-0 lead. Ryan found Jones midway through the third quarter over the middle for a first down to get Atlanta inside the Carolina 35. Tre Boston cut down Jones on an end-around in the third quarter for a three-yard loss to begin a drive late in the third quarter.

WR Justin Hardy, 12 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 14 - 0 (4 targets)
Took a jet sweep towards left tackle in the red zone but only managed a yard during a second-quarter drive. Hardy earned a short slant for a 12 yards and a first down on a fifth drive of the half but couldn’t dig out a route working back to the quarterback in the right flat on the next play.

WR Russell Gage, 31 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 32 - 0 (4 targets)
He earned a slant on the first third-down of the game, earning the ball against a huge cushion on the outside for a first down to reach the Atlanta 40. Gage worked the scramble drill on third and four inside the Carolina five. Ryan threw on the move to his right and Gage nearly made the diving catch in the end zone for the score but safety Tre Boston knocked the ball loose, leading to a third field goal attempt. Ryan climbed the pocket under pressure on second-and-long to find Gage over the middle just before the two-minute warning. Gage made a man miss and earned the first down near midfield on the play.

WR Christian Blake, 10 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (1 targets)
He took a reverse to right end for three yards, taking a huge hit.

TE Jaeden Graham, 34 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 23 - 0 (2 targets)
The Yale product made a catch of a low throw over the middle midway through the third quarter form a two-tight end formation, settling into the zone over the middle to reach the Carolina nine for a 12-yard gain. Graham shed Shaq Thompson one-on-one in the flat to convert a third-down midway through the fourth quarter.

Carolina Panthers

QB Kyle Allen, 75 offensive snaps, Pass: 31 - 50 - 325 - 0 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0
Kyle Allen played his sloppiest game as a professional, succumbing to Atlanta pressure and consistently displaying bad habits to put his team in a bind. An early interception proved to be an omen for what was to come: after Atlanta successfully snuffed out a screen pass, Allen, trying to throw the ball into the turf, dumped it into the right flat and right into the waiting arms of a Falcons defender. As the pressure built on Allen – his offensive line did him no favours – bad habits crept in, particularly when he retreated from pressure, not trusting his line to protect him if he stepped up in the pocket. That decision invited more pass rushers, who gobbled him up routinely. The offense was bogged down, with dump-off passes and short completions the order of the day. Atlanta’s downfield coverage was excellent, denying Allen on the occasions he tried to link up with his receivers on deep shots. It was in the red zone that Allen struggled mightily, tossing a second interception as he failed to diagnose the cornerback undercutting the route of D.J. Moore. Allen appeared to have a clear throwing window as he stepped up in the pocket on the play, but it was closed quickly and decisively. Allen rallied in the second half, showing better composure and poise as he took what the defense was giving him. He converted on a key fourth-down play when he bought time and, veering to the right sideline, fired a pass back across the field to a waiting Jarius Wright. The red zone woes haunted Allen again soon after as he tossed a third interception on a high pass intended for Moore, his mechanics letting him down as he failed to step into the throw. The final nail in the coffin – and the fourth interception – came late in the game. With the pocket collapsing around him, Allen threw a prayer of a ball down the seam, only to see it snatched away by a lurking safety.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 70 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 70 - 0, Rec: 11 - 121 - 0 (14 targets)
Christian McCaffrey was largely kept in check on the ground by a disciplined Atlanta front seven, though as a receiver the running back was nearly unstoppable. The game script demanded that Carolina utilise McCaffrey as a pass-catcher, with Atlanta’s defense rattling Kyle Allen and taking away the downfield passes effectively. McCaffrey churned through yardage as an underneath receiver, taking advantage of Atlanta’s underneath coverage. When McCaffrey had the opportunity to carry the ball, he was able to find some lanes, but they were few and far between. Carolina’s red zone woes prevented McCaffrey from getting any goal line carries, so he had to make do with run-after-catch opportunities.

RB Reggie Bonnafon, 7 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 8 - 0 (3 targets)
Reggie Bonnafon was the target of a seam pass that had cleaved through the Atlanta coverage, with Kyle Allen delivering a perfect touch pass. Unfortunately for the offense and Bonnafon, the back was unable to hang on after initially grasping the football. A glancing blow from a defender knocked it loose just as he touched down.

WR D.J. Moore, 74 offensive snaps, Rec: 8 - 95 - 0 (15 targets)
D.J. Moore was able to wade through the mud that the entire Carolina offense was marooned in, producing key catches and providing a struggling Kyle Allen with a reliable target. Moore caught every catchable pass thrown his way, with some targets downfield, for example, broken up well by defensive backs. Some shorter targets were too high for Moore to haul in, most notably a hitch route late in the game that Allen threw too high, resulting in an interception. Moore made hay in the short to intermediate range of the field, winning on slants and hitches and showing good timing with his quarterback. In the second half, Moore caught a pass on a slant and managed to break free from the would-be tackler, sprinting up the field. It appeared he would be able to go the distance, but an excellent last-ditch tackle from Desmond Trufant caught him at midfield. Moore was targeted in the end zone soon after on a post route, but once again the Atlanta defensive back had perfect position and broke it up.

WR Curtis Samuel, 72 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 25 - 0 (7 targets)
Like most of the Carolina offensive players, Curtis Samuel endured a torrid day against an Atlanta defense that was revitalised and played with spirit and verve. A quick screen into the right flat was snuffed out early, with Samuel unable to manoeuvre through the traffic. Samuel had to feed on scraps, catching only a handful of short passes. His lone deep target on a fade pattern in the end zone was too high to be hauled in.

WR Jarius Wright, 59 offensive snaps, Rec: 1 - 19 - 0 (2 targets)
Jarius Wright stayed alive on a crucial fourth-down play, adjusting his route to give his quarterback an easy target. On the play, he used a subtle double-move to confuse the defensive back and bailed out Kyle Allen, who was rolling right and in trouble.

TE Greg Olsen, 69 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 57 - 0 (5 targets)
Greg Olsen provided a safe pair of hands for Kyle Allen, who struggled mightily against Atlanta’s pass rush. The veteran tight end continued to show good chemistry with Allen, connecting well on seam routes off play action, on which the two produced a pair of chunk plays. Olsen’s output was limited, however, by the offense’s inability to sustain drives.