Originally written on Pro Football Spot  |  Last updated 11/10/14

ATLANTA - NOVEMBER 08: Quarterback Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Washington Redskins at Georgia Dome on November 8, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
It was the second straight game, where Atlanta was overwhelmed offensively and was soundly defeated once again. The difference in this game was that the offensive line actually played particularly well by only allowing one sack. They actually gave Matt Ryan time in the pocket to go through his reads. In the end, they lack playmakers to move the ball efficiently and Ryan made some uncharacteristic throws. It was another rough game Ryan, although this time he is at fault for all three interceptions. He seems to be forcing the ball into coverage far too often expecting players to make plays. I’m sure that Ryan realizes that he doesn’t have Julio Jones or Roddy White to go get the ball in traffic. You can’t expect Drew Davis and Darius Johnson to make tough catches on a consistent basis. The defense arguably had it’s best performance of the year,, which was absolutely wasted. I’m joined with Joe Riollano, who is the head writer for the Carolina Panthers on the site.Riollano: Well week nine for Carolina ended in another big win. For the fourth consecutive week the Panthers managed to put up over thirty points, although this week it took some help from the defense. Cam and company struggled a bit in the first half, but eventually found a rhythm in the second half. It was mostly because the offense was really focused on running the ball more in the second half. I still am trying to figure out some of the third down and short play calling, but the mark of a good team is one that plays ugly and still finds a way to win.Player of the game Strk: It’s hard to pick one player since Carolina’s secondary played very well. I’m going to choose Thomas Davis for being all over the field. Davis had seven tackles, one interception, and one pass defensed. The interception was an athletic play on his part and was a major game changer looking back on it. Davis continues to play at a high level, which is absolutely remarkable considering all the injuries that he’s dealt with. He is one of the true leaders on that Carolina defense and has become a potential Pro-Bowl candidate. His ability to cover and play the run is what made Jon Beason expendable. It also helps Carolina on third down, where they can put two top cover linebackers in Luke Kuechly and Davis in the nickel package.Riollano: My player of the game would have to be Cam Newton. Despite throwing two interceptions, Cam still managed to lead the team to a victory. Newton threw for 249 yards and a score as well as contributing 22 more yards on the ground with another score. This was not one of Newton’s finer games. We did see some of the maturity and leadership Cam has developed since early in the season last year. After Cam threw either interception at no point did he go and sulk on the bench. He stayed focused and engaged. The old Cam would have gotten into a funk and the game would have gotten away from him. This is what the fans have wanted to see since Carolina drafted him Newton with their first pick. Newton even ran out on the field after the pick six by Drayton Florence and gave him a pat on the helmet. He is finally becoming the leader of this organization.Two game changing moments Strk: After Harry Douglas caught a 32-yard pass, it seemed like Atlanta’s offense was ready to march downfield and tie the game up at 17. Ryan became too reliant on Douglas and tried to thread the needle through three Carolina defenders. It ended up being tipped and Davis made a spectacular play to get the interception. Atlanta never managed to put together a drive like that for the rest of the game.The other game changing moment was Brandon LaFell recovering his own fumble. After making a tough grab against Asante Samuel, Samuel chased him down to jar the ball loose like the true ball hawk that he is. It seemed like the ball was going to fall right into Robert Alford’s hands. Instead it hit him in the knee and the ball ended up falling back to LaFell. It’s been that kind of season for Atlanta. They could have had the ball back only down by a touchdown. That wasn’t meant to be and Newton scored on the next possession. It was all over after that. Riollano: The game changed with about four minutes left in the second quarter on a 4th and one from the Atlanta 14-yard line the Panthers decided to go for it. Everyone and I mean everyone in the stadium; along with those watching the game just knew the Panthers were going to run the ball. Well low and behold, Carolina runs a play action roll out and Newton is able to gently toss the ball to a wide-open Greg Olsen who walks into the end zone. It was a fantastic call because no one was expecting it.Another game changing moment in my opinion was with about three minutes left in the third quarter when Carolina was up by seven. The Falcons had the ball at the Carolina 49 and they were driving. Matt Ryan drops back and throws a pass intended for Harry Douglas, but the ball is tipped by Panthers safety Quinton Mikell and Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis snatches the tipped ball out of the air. Davis robbed Atlanta of their possession and took any momentum they had going for them. Matchup abuser Strk: It’s hard to call out anyone for being abused. If I had to choose someone that got abused, it would have to be the Falcons’ passing attack besides Tony Gonzalez and Harry Douglas. After having 70 yards and a touchdown last week, Drew Davis was anonymous. Darius Johnson and Levine Tolilolo were non-existent. These were players that would have to step up for Ryan to succeed in the absence of Jones and White. He hasn’t gotten any of their support and his play has faltered for that. Carolina’s defense did an excellent job forcing three interceptions, along with their secondary constantly being around the ball. You might be thinking why isn’t this on the shut down part. That will be for another element from yesterday’s game. Atlanta’s receivers were bullied at the line of scrimmage, when Carolina played man coverage. The lack of receiver depth has cost them. Carolina’s secondary deserves credit for making most of Matt Ryan’s weapons non-existent. Riollano: There wasn’t any matchup that I can really say was abused. It was an even game for the most part, until Carolina scored 14 points in a matter of few minutes to finish off Atlanta. Matchup shut downStrk: Even though Carolina won in dominant fashion, I’m still wondering what happened to the pass rush? Atlanta’s offensive line is among the worst in the league and was just manhandled by Arizona’s front four. Carolina’s defensive line is just as good, yet produced just one sack and three hits. Charles Johnson was the only player that had a sack and it occurred when the game was essentially over.It’s not a major concern, since their presence could have led to Ryan rushing his throws. As I was watching the game, it was shocking to see Atlanta’s defensive line causing more pressure than Carolina. Greg Hardy was mostly a non-factor, as Sam Baker did a solid job blocking him. After expecting Matt Ryan to take a significant amount of hits, he mostly came out of this game clean. Riollano: The biggest surprise to me was the lack of pressure generated by the Carolina defensive line. I was expecting Charles Johnson and “Monsters Inc.” to get after Matt Ryan. In all reality the Atlanta offensive line did a very good job of keeping Ryan upright. Kudos to that group of guys. Next week’s outlook Strk: It doesn’t get any easier for Atlanta. We get to see the rematch of last year’s divisional round playoff game between the Falcons and Seahawks. It’ll be another long day for the Falcons, unless they can take advantage of Seattle’s offensive line woes. We may get to see the Percy Harvin season debut as well, which is the last thing Falcon fans want to envision. The only appealing element about next week could be the matchup between Roddy White and Richard Sherman. I’ll be shocked if White has to sit out for a fourth straight week.Riollano: Next week Carolina makes a trip to the west coast to take on the defending NFC champs. This game will have major playoff implications. I expect Carolina to be focused and they should feel as if they have something to prove, because frankly, they do. You can follow us on twitter at @Allen_Strk & @JoeRiollano
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