The Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers, 40-20, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this afternoon. All three phases came together for today's win as the Falcons won the turnover margin with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, the offense totaled 461 yards and special teams produced four field goals and a fumble recovery.
Matt Ryan completed 20-for-34 passes for 313 yards, including two passing touchdowns, for a 109.1 passer rating. The 12-year pro's 14-yard pass to Russell Gage in first quarter pushed him over 50,000 career passing yards, becoming the 10th player to do so in NFL history and the second-fastest (Drew Brees, 183 games).The 12-year pro now has 62 games of 300 yards in his career and nine games this season, besting his own franchise record (2018; 8). Ryan's second touchdown of the day, a 93-yard pass to Olamide Zaccheaus, is the longest pass of his career with Zaccheaus becoming the 44th receiver he has thrown a touchdown pass to.
Zaccheaus' 93-yard touchdown catch marked his first catch in the NFL and, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the longest first-career reception in NFL history. The reception is the third longest in Falcons' history behind a 98-yard reception by Michael Haynes (1993) and a 94-yard catch by Jamal Anderson (2001). The undrafted rookie from Virginia has seen action in seven games this season.
Calvin Ridley registered five catches for 76 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown, before exiting the game with an injury. The two-year pro has now posted a touchdown in all four games against Panthers in his career. In two seasons, Ridley has totaled 17 touchdown catches, the most by a player in his first two seasons since Odell Beckham (2014-15; 25). The Alabama alum needs one more touchdown to tie the two-year franchise record set by Julio Jones.
Julio Jones posted five receptions for 66 yards, surpassing 1,000 yards for the sixth consecutive year. The nine-year vet has tied the franchise record for most consecutive seasons with 1,000 receiving yards, set by Roddy White (2007-2012). Jones is tied for the longest-active streak with Buccaneers' Mike Evans.
Damontae Kazee had a day with two tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble on special teams. The third-year pro has totaled three interceptions against the Panthers this season, the most in franchise history since Ray Buchanan (3) in 2000. In the last two seasons, Kazee has 10 interceptions, tied for the most in the NFL with Bears' Kyle Fuller. The former fifth-round pick now has two special teams forced fumbles in his career, with his first occurring against the Bears in 2017.
The Falcons defense held the Panthers to just 100-rushing yards and totaled five sacks on QB Kyle Allen. Vic Beasley Jr. recorded two strip-sacks, with one recovered by Tyeler Davison that led to a 13-yard touchdown run by Devonta Freeman. Takk McKinley also registered two sacks and De'Vondre Campbell had a third-down sack.
Younghoe Koo made all four field goal attempts, including a 37-yarder, 35-yarder, 29-yarder and a season-long 50-yarder. The Georgia Southern alum also recovered Kazee's fumble at the Carolina 16-yard line, which set up his 29-yard field goal. Since Week 10, Koo has made the most field goals in the NFL (16).
Freeman totaled 17 carries for 84 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown, his first of the season, and four catches for 10 yards. Brian Hill ran for 62 yards on nine carries, including a three-yard touchdown. The Falcons totaled 159 rushing yards on the day, the most in a game this season, and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.