Beasley Breaks Through:Vic Beasley, Jr. turned in his best game as a Falcon, which was capped by a strip sack on Cam Newton with 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter. Beasley's ability to get the ball loose and Adrian Clayborn's ability to scoop it up all but sealed the win for Atlanta. The Falcons' rookie pass-rusher has improved steadily of late, and while his final snap against Carolina was his biggest, he wreaked plenty of havoc throughout the afternoon.
Beasley brought consistent pressure and, thanks to his knack for bending the edge, was able to force a number of key throwaways by moving Newton off his spot. It was as consistent and explosive as the 23-year-old has looked in a Falcons uniform, and it should only continue to build his confidence moving forward.
"It was a terrific play by him," Quinn said of Beasley's sack, which gives him the most ever by a Falcons rookie. "We've got lots of belief in him. We knew the speed, and as he's going and developing, I thought that was a huge play for him."
Falcons Maintain Offensive Balance: Because they fell into an early hole two weeks ago in Charlotte, the Falcons had to lean heavily on the pass and run sporadically. During Sunday's rematch, however, Atlanta was able to put together a balanced attack. In the end, they finished with only three more passes than runs. This was made possible thanks to Devonta Freeman—73 rushing yards on 22 carries—and a stout defense that kept the Panthers at bay.
"That balance was absolutely the key for us," said Quinn. "Although sometimes it may not show on the stat sheet, having the ability to run it or have the play-action come alive—we just have so much believe in them. We knew this game was going to be a line-of-scrimmage game, and it certainly was."
Third Down Success Goes a Long Way: The Falcons have recently spent a lot of time working on third down offense, and on Sunday that effort paid major dividends: Atlanta converted nine of 15 third downs against Carolina, while the defense held the Panthers to just four of 10 on such plays.
"I thought that was huge for us today," Ryan said. "I think for us to be able to maintain balance on first and second down was huge throughout the game. … When you are balanced in those situations, you're going to have some third down situations come up when you've got to keep the drives going. And I think the last two weeks, and really today, we've done an outstanding job on third downs."
Jones Goes Off: The Julio Jones/Josh Norman matchup once again garnered lots of hype, and this time around, Jones got the best of his talented counterpart. Atlanta's Pro Bowl WR finished the day with nine receptions, 178 receiving yards and a touchdown that Quinn said is one of the best he's ever seen. Norman covered someone else during the long TD, but he did permit Jones to corral seven catches for 91 yards on eight targets.
Ryan Toughs it Out: Despite enduring some grueling hits and constant pressure, Matt Ryan turned in an outstanding performance, completing 23 of 30 passes for 303 yards and a touchdown. That statline is especially impressive considering the fact that Atlanta receivers dropped five passes throughout the day. Ryan at one point connected on 12 straight throws.
"It was an extremely gutsy performance by Matt," Quinn said. "He's appreciated by the team, by the staff and everyone in the organization. Today he was an absolute warrior."
Graham Rebounds in a Big Way: After missing his initial field goal attempt, Shayne Graham redeemed himself by booting a 54-yard field goal with 1:30 left in regulation to give the Falcons a seven-point lead—effectively forcing the Panthers to go for a touchdown in the waning moments of regulation. According to Quinn, the Falcons would have punted if they were a yard back, but thanks to Graham's strong leg, Atlanta felt comfortable going for three points rather than pinning Carolina deep in its own territory.
"I'll take the blame for that, and my job was to not do that again," Graham said of his miss. "Luckily I got a few more opportunities throughout the game."
The Boss Gets the Juice Flowing: Prior to opening kickoff, Arthur Blank walked into the Falcons locker room and, instead of speaking to the players, reportedly did a dance that got everyone pumped up.
"Everybody was pretty hyped about that," said Schofield. "I don't know the name (of the dance), but honestly, when the owner has that type of confidence, I think that definitely sparked a little juice before we got out onto the field.