Falcons drop heartbreaker

AP/John Amis Falcons lost a close one to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 27-20 in their home opener, dropping the team to 0-3 for the first time since 1999. The game had some questionable officiating, but ultimately the Falcons inability to stop the Panthers ground game cost them the win.

Joey Harrington answered most of his skeptics having a fine day. He completed 31 of 44 passes for 361 yards and 2 touchdowns. Warrick Dunn led rushers with 55 yards on 11 carries (5.0 avg), and Jerious Norwood added 32 yards on 6 carries (5.3 avg). Roddy White had another good day for the receivers with 7 catches for 127 yards (18.1 avg) with a 69-yard score. Alge Crumpler (6 catches for 63 yards) had the Falcons other score, and Michael Jenkins had 6 catches as well for 76 yards.

DeShaun Foster slashed the Falcons with 122 yards on the ground, as the Falcons gave up 182 yards on the ground. 99 of them came in the second half. Michael Boley led the defense with 8 tackles. Chris Crocker (6 tackles, 1 sack), Lawyer Milloy (6 tackles), and John Abraham (2 tackles, 2 sacks) had notable games. DeAngelo Hall was flagged three times on a third quarter drive which led to the Panthers tying up the score 17-17. The first penalty was a defensive pass interference, in which Hall was beat by Steve Smith deep. On the very next play, he was penalized for a personal foul for shoving Smith. And then two plays later, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after a lengthy jawing session wtih Smith. Two plays later Jake Delhomme found Jeff King for a 5-yard touchdown pass. Those two latter penalties certainly raised a few eyebrows, and perhaps sapped any momentum that the Falcons might have had following their score on the previous drive to take the lead 17-10. Despite those penalties, Hall played well as he was matched up against Steve Smith the entire game, and shutting down the 3-time Pro Bowl receiver. Smith only had 1 catch for 10 yards.

Morten Andersen connected on both field goal attempts. He had one in the first quarter botched by a poor hold by Michael Koenen. Koenen had 4 punts for an average of 43.8 yards with 1 placed inside the 20-yard line. Adam Jennings was pretty non-effective on punt returns with 2 returns for 5 yards. Jerious Norwood was the opposite on kickoffs, returning 5 for 145 yards (29.0 avg).

Next week the Falcons will stay home to face off against the Houston Texans (2-1), which will bring former Falcon quarterback Matt Schaub back to Atlanta since he was traded last March.

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Aaron Freeman
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