First Quarter:Atlanta and Carolina were nearly identical, closing the period with a tied score of seven. After both teams traded three-and-out possessions to begin the game, the Falcons and Carolina each used long, consistent drives to score their first touchdowns. The Falcons went first, using a 5-of-6 passing drive from quarterback Matt Ryan to find the endzone. The drive ended with a key player on the drive, Julio Jones. The receiver caught four passes on the drive, including the five-yard touchdown. Carolina responded with a drive eerily similar, scoring on a 6-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Jeremy Shockey. At the close of the quarter, Atlanta's 77 yards on offense was matched closely by Carolina's 67 and the Falcons' 18 rushing yards mirrored Carolina's 17.
Second Quarter:The Falcons' even play with Carolina turned dreadful in the second quarter and Atlanta ended the first half in a 23-7 hole. The quarter began with a new player at right guard. Sam Baker replaced Joe Hawley, but he wasn't able to help steady the offensive line. Bad field position on the Falcons' second possession caused a starting point at their own four-yard line and Ryan was sacked in the endzone for a safety on third down. The Panthers continued to clutch momentum, scoring on a 74-yard touchdown run by DeAngelo Williams. Carolina would add another touchdown on the next drive, a 44-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Greg Olsen. Atlanta's offensive line struggled to protect Ryan in the first half and much of their drive stalls came because of this. The second quarter against Carolina appeared to be one of the ugliest of their entire season.
Third Quarter:What a difference a half can make. On Atlanta's first possession, the Falcons used two third-down catches from Tony Gonzalez to keep the drive alive. Though they couldn't find the endzone, after struggling to do anything in the second quarter, a field goal was a positive. They took the positive and ran with it. The Falcons next intercepted Carolina's Newton. Mike Peterson's catch put the Falcons at the Carolina 35-yard line. Two plays later Ryan went deep to an unlikely suspect, the streaking for 31 yards into the endzone. Just like that the Falcons were back in the game, down 23-17. Atlanta found another takeaway on the following Panthers possession. William Moore picked off a Newton deep ball and placed the Falcons at Carolina's 24-yard line. A missed field goal meant a missed opportunity for Atlanta, but the defense kept grinding against Carolina. As the half closed, they were piecing together another drive after a stout defensive stand from the Falcons defense.
Fourth Quarter:The momentum the Falcons found in the third quarter carried over into the game's final period. Atlanta took its drive into the fourth and kept it going, finding the rookie receiver, , for a touchdown. After a tough week last week and a few missed opportunities earlier in the game for Jones, the wideout made the most of his next opportunity. Jones caught the Ryan pass and stretched out to get the ball in the endzone for the go-ahead touchdown. Halfway through the quarter, it appeared Carolina would make a game of what looked like an emerging run away for Atlanta. A positive drive for the Panthers resulted in a missed field goal and the Atlanta 24-23 lead remained. One play after taking over for the turnover on downs, Atlanta struck with Jones again. Ryan completed a short pass to Jones, who was darting across the field. After breaking a tackle, he was gone for a 75-yard score. The touchdown gave the Falcons a 31-23 lead.
Player of the Game:Jones should get some honors for bouncing back from a tough week when the team needed a score. Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White should get some credit making some huge catches on key Falcons drives. The factor that ties them all together is Matt Ryan. The Atlanta quarterback stood in the pocket on Sunday, despite facing pressure that earned three sacks and completed 57 percent of his passes. He ended the day with 320 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The second half performance had numerous playmakers step up, but Ryan orchestrated everything and drove the ship.
Turning Point:Halftime. After a dismal second quarter that saw them fall to a 23-7 defecit, the Falcons entered the visitor's locker room in Charlotte. There was a thin margin for error in the final four games of the season and a remaining game played at the level the Falcons did in the second would be sure disaster. Whatever happened in Atlanta's locker room during halftime changed the Falcons. The coaching staff made adjustments and the Falcons players found an urgency that they lacked to open up the contest. When Atlanta came out in the second half, they scored 24 unanswered points and forced two interceptions on defense. All that mixed to spell a comeback win for Atlanta.
Stat of the Game:Two. The Falcons' two interceptions in the second half were game-changing plays, one that started the change of the game of the other kept things going in a positive direction. When Peterson stepped in front of a Newton pass, the Falcons were able to take the ball and score quickly, drawing to within six points. William Moore's interception didn't amount to any points for the Falcons, but they were able to continue to frustrate Carolina QB Cam Newton in the second half by plays like his.
Tweet of the Game:Sometimes the best tweets regarding a Falcons game aren't the funniest or the cleverest. Sometimes they're just simply the truth. @DirtyBird4life shared a Falcons truth as the game came to its conclusion on Sunday. After witnessing a 24-point scoring outburst in the second half to bounce back from one of the worst quarters of football the team has played this season, the Falcons fan said this: ["Gotta give this team credit. They didn't give up or fold.
Quote of the Day:The Falcons have found ways to win eight games this season, coming back from a deficit in more than a few of them. During the tenure of head coach Mike Smith, the resiliency of the Falcons has become a staple of their character. Their play on Sunday in the second half against Carolina once again showed this to be true. Second-half hero, Mike Peterson, explained it after the game: "It just showed the character of this team. We're going to fight until the end, regardless of how it starts out or how bad it's going early. We're going to fight until the end and find a win the game."