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10 things we learned from Falcons' win vs. Panthers


CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlanta Falcons (6-9) earned a season sweep against the Carolina Panthers (6-9) and climbed into second place in the NFC South on Sunday with a 24-10 road win.

Here are 10 things we learned from the game:

No. 10: Falcons can close out season on three-game win streak

It has been a streaky season for the Falcons in 2018, but they can end the year on a positive run. After winning their last two games, a win next Sunday against Tampa Bay would give Atlanta a three-game win streak heading into the offseason. While not much, it could provide a small bit of momentum heading into a new year.

No. 9: Mohamed Sanu's best run of the year

Atlanta has used the wildcat formation several times this season with Mohamed Sanu in the backfield, and they did so again on a third down late in the first quarter. It turned out to be the most successful play of the year out of that formation. Sanu kept the ball after faking a handoff and took off for 24 yards and a big first down. The drive ended with the Falcons' first touchdown of the game.

No. 8: Falcons can't convert first-half turnovers

Probably the most important stat of the first half was the Falcons scoring zero points off of two turnovers. Early in the second quarter, Deion Jones forced a fumble that set the Falcons up at the Panthers' 13-yard line. On the very next play, however, Matt Ryan was hit in the backfield and had the ball stripped as he was preparing to throw, giving Carolina possession right back.

To make matters worse, he appeared to have Tevin Coleman wide open for a touchdown. He didn't have time to get the ball off. Late in the second quarter, Jack Crawford snagged an interception after Damontae Kazee tipped the pass. The Falcons couldn't get the following drive going and gave the Panthers the ball after a three-and-out.

No. 7: Calvin Ridley's second 75-yard touchdown

On the first play of the second half, Matt Ryan connected with Calvin Ridley for a 75-yard touchdown pass that gave the Falcons a 17-10 lead. It was the second 75-yard touchdown catch of the season, who had his first against the New Orleans Saints in Week 3. With the touchdown, he tied the Falcons' franchise record for receiving touchdowns by a rookie.

No. 6: Falcons defense succeeded where it mattered

The box score may not be a pretty one for the Falcons' defense, which gave up 405 yards to a Panthers offense led by a quarterback making his first start, but that is misleading. Atlanta very much did its job on that side of the ball, holding Carolina to just 10 points and forcing three turnovers while protecting a lead for much of the afternoon. The Falcons pressured quarterback Taylor Heinicke all afternoon and the secondary had a number of impressive pass breakups.

No. 5: Brian Hill breaks loose

With Ito Smith out for the rest of the season, Brian Hill got the opportunity to prove what he could do for the Falcons. He showed a nice blend of vision and speed on the final play of the third quarter, breaking free for a 21-yard gain. Hill finished the run by lowering his shoulder along the sideline, which caused a brief scuffle and drew a 15-yard penalty, but coach Dan Quinn probably like seeing his running back send a message.

Hill also showcased his speed on a 60-yard run on the second-to-last play of the game, putting him over the 100-yard mark on Sunday.

No. 4: Touchdowns for Falcons' receiver trio

For the first time this season, Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu and Calvin Ridley scored a touchdown in the same game. Atlanta's passing attack looked crisp for much of the afternoon, and it was impressive to watch when things were clicking. The Falcons finished with 239 yards through the air. 

No. 3: Atlanta continues to run the ball well

A weakness for much of the season, the Falcons have begun to run the ball much better of late. On Sunday, the Falcons ran the ball 21 times for 194 yards. Tevin Coleman exited the game with a groin injury but broke free for a couple of runs during the afternoon; he finished with 51 yards on 10 carries. Brian Hill spelled Coleman in the second half, and he ran hard while in the game, finishing with eight carries for 115 yards, including a 60-yard run.

No. 2: An example of Julio Jones' impact

Julio Jones is one of the very best receivers to have ever played in the NFL, and his presence has a tangible impact for other players on the Falcons' offense. The latest example of that came in the third quarter on a 44-yard Mohamed Sanu touchdown catch.

The final 25 yards of Sanu's touchdown occurred after the catch, but he was all alone as he ran towards the end zone. The reason? Two Panthers defensive backs were locked on Jones and never turned away from him after Sanu caught the pass and ran right behind them.

No. 1: Matt Bosher: Tackling artist

The play of the day came courtesy of Falcons punter Matt Bosher, who completely upended Panthers returner Kenjon Barner in the second quarter with a bone-crushing tackle. Words can't do it justice, so just watch it.

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