Falcons defense changed the narrative in late win
When Blidi Wreh-Wilson stepped in front of Teddy Bridgewater's pass to secure the second win of Atlanta's season, it marked a reversal – at least for one game. Closing in the fourth quarter has been a problem for the Falcons in 2020, and Raheem Morris has looking for players to step up in those big moments to make that one final play.
On Thursday night, Wreh-Wilson delivered on that challenge. Morris hopes to see more players fit into that role moving forward, which should only help the Falcons earn more wins down the stretch. As ESPN’s David Newton writes, that might not be enough to make Atlanta a late-year playoff contender, but they should be a tougher out.
"The Falcons, 2-6, won't jump off the page in terms of suddenly becoming a playoff contender," Newton writes. "But they are showing that with an improvement on defense and ability to finish games that they could be a tough out for anybody on their schedule the second half of the season."
Falcons mid-term report card
With eight games in the books, the Falcons have reached the mid-point of their 2020 season. It hasn't been the start they had hoped for, especially given the way things ended in 2019. Major changes have already been made, and it remains to be seen what the future holds for the organization. But there's time to see what is to come, D. Orlando Ledbetter took a look back at what has come to pass with a report card at the halfway point of the fall.
"Run defense: The Falcons are in the top 10 in run defense, giving up just 99.25 yards per game," Ledbetter writes. "However, it may be that teams don't have to run because they are having so much success against the meek pass defense. After Carolina's Mike Davis ran for 89 yards in the first meeting, the Falcons held him to 66 in the second meeting. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett's penetration has been key. Linebackers Foye Oluokun (54 tackles) and Deion Jones (51) have been stout. Strong safety Keanu Neal (51 tackles) is rounding back into form. GRADE: B"
Ledbetter looked at each of the primary units for the team, assigning grades for each of them.
Late interception helps Falcons win
The Atlanta Falcons earned their second win of the season on Thursday night, defeating the Carolina Panthers 25-17. It is the second win in the three games since interim head coach Raheem Morris took over, and the Falcons, who are currently 2-6, hope it won't be the last.
"We've been in every game we've played this year," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said after the game. "We've had some crazy losses to be frank. I really believe that we have the caliber of team to go be in every game that we're going to play in for the rest of this season. Why can't we win them all? That's the mindset that I have."
The Falcons will look to continue their winning ways next week against the Denver Broncos to build momentum heading into their bye. Following the bye, things get much tougher, however. Atlanta's opponents have a combined record of 29-16, and the Falcons will play both the Saints and the Buccaneers twice in their final seven games.
ESPN's Michael DiRocco wrote more about the Falcons hoping to get things rolling after Thursday night’s victory.
Friday's NFL injury news
Falcons receiver Calvin Ridley had to leave the action due to an ankle injury on Thursday, but things may not be as serious as initially thought. NFL insider Ian Rapoport tweeted Friday that the x-rays on Ridley's foot were negative, and Raheem Morris didn't indicate after the game that the injury was major.
Falcons' Harris won't face suspension
In addition to the news of Ridley's injury, Rapoport tweeted that Falcons defensive end Charles Harris will not be suspended after a late hit on Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Harris was ejected for the hit, and Bridgewater was forced to temporarily leave the game due to an injury. CBSSports.com writer Patrik Walker had more to say about Harris not facing any suspension.
What we learned in Falcons' win
Atlanta's win on Thursday night is certainly among the bright spots for the fans this season. It was a game in which the defense was effective, Julio Jones helped spark the offense and a late clutch play helped seal the win. Grant Gordon provided a summary of the action in his recap piece for NFL.com.
"Refusing to go gentle into the offseason, the Falcons battled into a goodnight on Thursday and it was a much-maligned defensive backfield that came up clutch and fended off another fourth-quarter collapse," Gordon writes. "The only takeaway of the evening for the Falcons was Blidi Wreh-Wilson's interception of Teddy Bridgewater on the Panthers' last gasp of a drive. The Wreh-Wilson pick expunged any hopes of a Carolina comeback and likewise did away with another Atlanta freefall. While finding new and unspeakable ways to lose in the fourth quarter has been the story of the Falcons season, so too has been poor play from the defensive backfield, one mired by injuries and a major reason the Atlanta defense was 31st against the pass entering Thursday. But the Panthers mustered just 179 yards passing, Carolina receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson combining for only seven catches for 103 yards after they teamed up for 12 catches for 205 yards in the teams' earlier meeting. Grady Jarrett led a pass rush that pressured Bridgewater often and sacked him three times and Keanu Neal, Wreh-Wilson and A.J. Terrell did just enough in the defensive backfield to hang on. The Falcons (2-6) quite certainly have remaining issues with closing out victories, but against the Panthers (3-5), Atlanta's defense made a stand and staved off another crushing defeat."
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