ATLANTA -- Led by an efficient and explosive offensive performance, the Falcons (1-1) earned their first win of the season and picked up a crucial division victory over the Carolina Panthers (1-1), beating them 31-24 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Falcons' offense showed up in a game where Atlanta was without two key defensive pieces and took early control against the Panthers. After taking a 17-10 lead heading into halftime, the Falcons didn't relinquish that lead in the second half and put together their best all-around performance of the young 2018 season.
Falcons offense 'nailed' their opportunities
The Falcons were both effective and efficient, offensively, in their 31-24 win over the Panthers. Atlanta racked up 428 yards on offense while remaining exceptionally balanced – 256 passing yards and 172 rushing yards.
More importantly, the Falcons turned those yards into points. The Falcons were a perfect 4-of-4 in the red zone one week after going just 1-of-5 with those opportunities. Atlanta also sustained drives by converting six of its 11 third-down situations.
"Our execution was better than it had been before," Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. "Proud of the way the guys worked all week. When we got our chances we nailed them, across the board today. I thought the execution was great."
Tabeek: Falcons get back on track in big division win
A win always feels good, but what made Sunday's 31-24 win over the Panthers so sweet was how the Falcons did it.
Was it a perfect game? No, not by any means. But it was a complete turnaround from a week ago, and that's what matters most. It feels like this one was a long time coming, too, especially for Falcons fans who had to also endure a winless preseason.
And, more importantly, this was an all-important division win. Atlanta was 4-2 in the NFC South and finished 9-3 in the NFC in 2017 – only the Eagles and Vikings had better conference marks. That ended up being huge come January.
To read all of Matt Tabeek's column on the win, click here.
Efficient first half helps Falcons build lead
The Falcons wanted to be more efficient in their home opener, and they started off strong in the first half.
Atlanta was 2-of-2 in its red-zone opportunities in the first half against Carolina, scoring on two touchdown passes from Matt Ryan to Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper. This occurred after a tough showing in Week 1, when the Falcons were just 1-of-5 inside of the red zone.
Ridley's first career touchdown caps good outing
Calvin Ridley wasn't a factor in the Falcons' first game of the season, but he certainly was in his home debut.
Atlanta's first-round pick caught four passes for 64 yards and one touchdown, the first of his NFL career and the first of the game for the Falcons. Ridley and Julio Jones (five catches, 64 yards) led the Falcons in receiving yards against the Panthers.
"No, it was a really good feeling," Ridley said after the game. "Matt, connecting with me in there for my first touchdown it was good. It was a slant. I worked him at the line and I won. And Matt [gave me] a great ball and I caught it and got in the end zone."
Kazee ejected in first half for hit on Newton
Safety Damontae Kazee was ejected for an illegal hit on Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton in the first half on Sunday.
On fourth-and-4 early in the second quarter, Newton rushed for 10 yards. As he slid to the ground, Kazee hit Newton in the head. The helmet-to-helmet hit forced Newton to head to the sidelines. Panthers receiver Torrey Smith was also penalized on the play for retaliating but was not ejected.
"On the sideline [the refs] had said as [Newton] began the slide, Kazee had gone down and it was a helmet-to-helmet hit they thought he could have avoided," Quinn said. "I actually did not see the play and have not seen it on the replay yet, but it sounded like everybody supported the call."