After finding some offensive success, the Falcons defense again struggled against Cam Newton. In only four plays, the Panthers moved from their own 20 to the Atlanta 28, mostly through the air. After a blitzing Stephen Nicholas sacked Newton and brought up another third and long, the secondary again gave up a long passing play. John Abraham was almost certainly held on the play.
It only took two more plays for the Panthers to score their first touchdown, which came on a one-yard Jonathan Stewart run up the gut. Outside of Nicholas' sack, the lack of pressure has been easily noticed. Perhaps BVG should blitz more, considering that it worked, rather than continuing to only rush four on every play? Just an idea.
Meanwhile, the offense stuck with what successful, namely the no-huddle "Texas" offense. After a couple of runs and a third-down completion to Roddy White, Turner broke to the outside for a 33 yard gain. But, in typical fashion, a personal foul on Roddy (he's been doing that a lot lately) cut that gain in half.
Ryan then finally got Harry Douglas involved on a 23-yard pickup into Panthers territory. Another pass interference on the Panthers- this one pretty blatant- brought up another first and goal from one yard out. It took them three tries, but Ryan finally found Ovie Mughelli on a one-yard TD toss, putting the Falcons up 14-10. It was a 12-play, 80-yard drive orchestrated by Matty Ice to perfection, and exactly what this team needed.
On defense, well... the Falcons were pretty poor again. After converting yet another long third down, Newton was picking up on almost every pass. Then, a very questionable (it was complete #$%&, you could say) roughing the passer called against Abraham gave the Panthers a free 15 and a first.
Then just as the Panthers seemed absolutely guaranteed to score a touchdown, super-clutch Williams Moore batted an errant Newton throw into the air, and Brent Grimes picked it off in the end zone. Talk about timely. That would for all intents and purposes end the half, preserving a 14-10 Falcons lead. Upcoming: the dreaded third quarter. Let's see if the Falcons can make adjustments.
For more on this game, visit Atlanta Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Carolina Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader.