First Quarter:The gameplan coming into Sunday's matchup with the Panthers figured to key on running back Michael Turner running the ball against Carolina's 27th-ranked run defense. Turner gained positive yards in the first quarter, keeping Atlanta's second drive moving and churning out 24 yards on six carries. He punched it into the end zone for the game's first touchdown, but it was a big pass play that set it all up. On second-and-11 from Carolina's 38, Matt Ryan went deep to Roddy White into the endzone. The pass was on target and a pass interference call that broke it up put the ball at the one-yard line. On the next play Turner stomped into the endzone to take the 7-3 lead.
Second Quarter:The Panthers went ahead 10-7 in the second quarter, finishing their drive to begin the period with a one-yard touchdown run. Atlanta counter-punched with a long drive, continuing to mix up the run and pass with their no huddle offense. Turner picked up 33 yards on one big run and a few plays later Ryan connected with Harry Douglas for a 23-yard gain. Facing third-and-1 from Carolina's one, fullback Ovie Mughelli broke free on a Ryan rollout to catch the touchdown pass. Mughelli added a Dirty-Bird-era endzone dance to the delight of the Georgia Dome. With the 14-10 lead the Falcons defense took over and Sean Weatherspoon dropped Newton for a sack before cornerback Brent Grimes stopped Newton and the Panthers dead in their tracks. The electrifying Grimes leaped into the air to snag a tipped pass off the hands of safety William Moore. Grimes returned the interception 29 yards and Atlanta ran out the clock for halftime.
Third Quarter:The third quarter on Sunday wasn't as damaging as some of have been this season, but the Falcons did lose their lead, allowing a Cam Newton 14-yard scramble for a touchdown on the Panthers' first drive of the half. The Panthers used up half the quarter for their scoring effort and Atlanta couldn't respond on their next drive. The two teams traded punts before the Falcons took over with 2:30 remaining. From the Carolina 49 they began piecing together a positive drive, highlighted by Turner's 24 yard gain. Key on his run was Mughelli whose block sealed off the left side of the field for Turner to run through. With that run Turner eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the game.
Fourth Quarter:A Matt Bryant field goal to begin the quarter tied the score up, but then Atlanta did something they've done very little of this season: put a team away. They forced a punt on Carolina's next possession and responded with a 10-play drive that ended with a Matt Ryan quarterback sneak for a touchdown. Two key third-down conversions on that drive helped them get there. On third-and-6, Tony Gonzalez converted with a 11-yard catch and three plays later Harry Douglas chipped in a big 34-yard gain on third-and-12. Defensive tackle Corey Peters delivered the play of the game on the next drive, intercepting a Newton pass. With the ball back with the Falcons offense, seven running plays and one pass play were used to grind the clock and post a touchdown to make the score 31-17. The score would stand and the Falcons would be 3-3 by the day's end.
Play of the Game:When Brent Grimes makes a play, he gets his money's worth. Before the second quarter ended, with the Panthers driving on Atlanta's 10-yard line, Moore's tipped pass allowed Grimes to make a play that would set the tone for the Falcons defense on the day. Grimes' coverage of Smith was impressive all day, holding the star wideout to five catches for 66 yards, but nothing he did all day was as impressive as the interception. With the tipped ball high in the air, Grimes leaped to pluck it and returned it 29 yards.
Player of the Game:Michael Turner turned in a vintage performance, carrying the offense on his broad shoulders. Turner averaged 5.1 yards per carry, earning 139 yards on 27 attempts with two touchdowns.
Turning Point:The three interceptions in the game each carried profound effects on the game, but the takeaway defensive tackle Corey Peters grabbed in the fourth quarter was a game-changer. With the Falcons holding onto a slim touchdown lead Peters intercepted a Newton pass to put the ball back in the hands of Atlanta's offense. The play was a blitz that had the defensive end drop into coverage and Peters' assignment was to contain the edge. He explained that he saw the offensive tackle lean and free himself up to go outside. When he did that, Peters turned around and the ball was coming right at him. A one-handed grab and a stiff arm later, Peters was brought down with a one-yard gain and the Falcons were ready to put the game away.
Stat of the Game:30:34. The time of possession for each team was virtually even, which only further illustrates how close the game truly was entering the fourth quarter. It was shows how dominant the Falcons were in the fourth quarter. Their two touchdowns in the game's final period put the win away and they kept Newton and his dangerous arm on the sidelines. Before Carolina's final drive of the game, Newton only attempted three passes, only one of which was completed. Atlanta limited Carolina to just over four minutes of possession time in the fourth quarter.
Tweet of the Game:With Sunday's convincing win, Atlanta improves to 3-3. It's been a season of tough losses and wins that weren't easy to come by. While the win over the Panthers was far from easy, an outstanding fourth quarter effort put the game out of reach for Carolina. The sound win compelled @retweeterson to say this following the victory: ".500 never felt so good. #atlcar11"
Quote of the Day:The Falcons defense in the second half was the story of the game. The offense held up their end of the deal by posting points, but Atlanta's defense adjusted to what Carolina did well in the first half and took the game away. When the game was on the line, the Falcons defense responded with the right play in the right moment. "We just made plays when we needed to," defensive end John Abraham said. "Getting off the field on third and long. That was a great play by Corey. That's what we've got to do. The D-line, we know we've got to start putting up better numbers and putting more pressure."