What a final quarter! At the beginning of the quarter, the Falcons actually couldn't come through where they usually do: the red zone. On third and goal at the Carolina two, Ryan couldn't commit to a receiver and the Falcons were forced to settle for a 24-yard Matt Bryant field goal. That would, however, tie things up at 17 points apiece with 14:15 left in this ball game.
On the other side, a holding penalty gave the defense an opportunity to force another punt. On third and fifteen, the Falcons forced Cam Newton to throw underneath- well short of the first down- and in turn a Carolina punt. A decent eight-yard return by Eric Weems had the Falcons in business at their own 40-yard line.
And then the Ryan-led no huddle offense was executed to perfection. While the Panthers finally started stuffing Michael Turner, Ryan made two excellent plays on third down- including a beautiful 34-yard completion to Harry Douglas with pressure coming from all directions- to keep the drive alive. Finally, on second and goal from one yard out, Ryan took it in himself on a QB sneak to put the Falcons up 24-17.
And then the defense came through. After giving up a big first down run to DeAngelo Williams, Corey Peters read a screen pass perfectly and intercepted the short pass by Newton. In a game where turnovers have been the difference, the Falcons have had two huge ones. Peters just made a big-time play that could very well seal this one for the Falcons, as they now are threatening to score inside the Carolina 30.
Once again, it would be Turner to break the Panthers defense. On the ensuing drive, he would carry the ball six times for 29 yards, including his second TD of the game that would seal the Falcons win. On the day, Turner the Burner had 27 carries for 139 yards. His success opened up the passing lanes, and the offense looked much better than last week.
The defense, while not fantastic, made enough plays to limit a red-hot Cam Newton. Brent Grimes did an excellent job on Steve Smith as well. All in all, the Falcons move to 3-3 having played their most complete game of this season. Finally, it would seem all the talk of "improvement" has come to fruition.
For more on this game, visit Atlanta Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Carolina Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader.