I remember this game from the regular season because I remember Matt Ryan had been taking some heat on the boards for his play in recent weeks, and this was the game that was for me the “final straw” in terms of acknowledging that his play had taken a dive. It was based around the fact that I knew he had played poorly in previous games, but there is a certain number of times you can make excuses or forgive some flaws before you say enough is enough. And that was this game for me. Ryan got off to a poor start in the first quarter. Pressure I think was the primary culprit in the second quarter. He came back in the third and early part of the fourth and make some good throws. But he got greedy on the pivotal drive in the fourth with 4 minutes to go at midfield on first down (following a good return by Weems). He went deep to Jenkins, who was open, but in order to complete the pass he had to split two defenders, which in my opinion is the hardest throw to make for a quarterback. He should have taken a much easier and shorter throw or thrown it away. He had 4 minutes to work with, with the team down by 2 on a short field, there was no need to go for the big play on the first play out. And he paid for it because it was picked and pretty much sealed the win for the Panthers. Frankly, Matt Ryan looked more like the bad version of Jake Delhomme in this game than Jake did.
Michael Turner had a brilliant start to this game, gaining 111 yards on 9 carries before a high ankle sprain forced him out. Jason Snelling had a solid game filling in for him, but in the woulda/coulda/shoulda, this should have been a 200-yard game for Turner. Jenkins again was a no show, both of Ryan’s picks were intended to Jenkins. But I can’t blame Jenkins because both were poor throws. Will Svitek struggled in pass protection for much of the game, particularly when he was left on an island. Julius Peppers beat him a few times, but so did Charles Johnson and Everette Brown. Other than him, the O-line had a pretty solid game.
I should also note that I’m screwing Verron Haynes. The Falcons got a 12 men in the huddle penalty, and I’m only guessing that Haynes was the culprit, although I could very easily be wrong. Sorry, Verron, you’ll just have to take one for the team.
Defensively, the Falcons got off to a rocky start, but mainly because Tye Hill had a horrible first half. Both of Carolina’s first two scores were basically allowed by Hill. On their second series, Hill gave up 3 receptions (on 3 attempts) for 62 yards, setting up Jonathan Stewart’s touchdown run. Then on the third series, he was caught out of position allowing DeAngelo Williams a 28-yard run which set up a touchdown pass to Steve Smith, which Hill was beat on despite getting called for pass interference. He clearly didn’t interfere enough. Thankfully, the Falcons replaced him on the next series with Grimes who did much better. I have to give credit to Chris Houston. He was a non-factor in this game, which is a good thing because it means that he did a good enough job in coverage vs. both Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad that Delhomme didn’t challenge him. The Falcons didn’t get much pressure on Delhomme all game, so he was afforded lots of time to find Muhsin Muhammad for the most part. Peterson, Babineaux, and Walker picked up some tackles for loss in the garbage time as the Panthers were running out the clock. Unfortunately they coudln’t do it on the previous series which included a 45-yard run from Stewart which definitely sealed the W for the Panthers. Overall, it wasn’t a poor defensive performance overall, but definitely not a strong one either.
Michael Koenen had a good game on special teams. Weems had a nice punt return to set up the Falcons to take the lead in the fourth (which wound up being Ryan’s second pick). Unfortunately, he was tackled by the punter, a tackle he should have easily broken, but didn’t. That could have been a score instead. Elam botched another field goal which would have given the Falcons a 22-21 lead in the fourth. I can’t completely blame Elam because this was one of those kicks were the timing was way off. Bryan PIttman didn’t snap the ball when Koenen called for it, and Elam was expecting it, causing him to studder step and completely throw off his timing. He still could have made the kick, but I say it was only 60% Elam’s fault. Chauncey Davis had a blocked field goal as well.
Advanced Stats from Week 10:
Dropped Passes (2): Jenkins, Zinger
Sacks Allowed (0):
Poor Throws (8): Ryan
QB Pressures Allowed (7): Svitek (3.5), Snelling (2), Dahl (1), Blalock (0.5)
Missed Blocks (3): Dahl, Gonzalez, Peelle
QB Pressures (3): Abraham, Babineaux, Biermann
Missed Tackles (2): Tye Hill, Babineaux