By Matthew Asher
Last week Cam Newton was criticized for his sulking attitude following the Giants blowout of the Panthers. Wide receiver Steve Smith called out Newton and even the Charlotte Observer poked fun at him with a clever cartoon. The big question in this game would be if Newton would be able to compose himself in this game, and not let his emotions get the better of him.
In short, yes Cam did. Carolina gave Atlanta everything they could handle in a game that on paper should have been a blowout for Atlanta. Of course, that’s why you play the game. Newton and company have nothing to be ashamed about following their 30-28 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons. On the flip side, Atlanta should consider themselves lucky being able to leave the Georgia Dome with a hard-earned victory.
In a game that featured two great quarterbacks throwing for a combined 854 yards, five touchdowns and just one interception, it came down to Falcons kicker Matt Bryant making his third field goal of the day, a 40-yard kick, with 5 seconds left as the Falcons came away with just their third 4-0 start in franchise history.
Roddy White gets the near impossible A+. Simply put, if it wasn’t for Roddy, Atlanta would have lost the game. Roddy had 8 catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns but neither of those two catches were the most impressive of the day.
With Atlanta starting their final drive on their own 1 yard line with about one minute to play, Matt Ryan heaved the ball deep in his end zone towards Roddy. ”Matt told me he was going to throw it up there. Just make a play,” White said. ”Not for one second did we think we were going to lose the game.” He was right. Roddy came down with a 59-yard reception (in double coverage no less) to give Atlanta the ball at the Carolina 40 yard-line. From there Ryan was able to move the ball upfield enough for Matt Bryant to make his ninth field goal of the year and remain perfect for the season.
Michael Turner gets an A. Finally the Falcons have a runner who put up 100+ yards in a game. Turner finished the game with 103 rushing yards on 13 carries averaging just under 8 yards per carry. Turner did more than just run the ball though. In the third quarter Matt Ryan connected with Turner for a 60-yard touchdown pass, Turner’s first NFL receiving touchdown. He finished the day with 171 all-purpose yards, averaging 10.7 yards per touch.
Atlanta’s defense gets a C. While they came away with the victory, it certainly wasn’t easy. Cam Newton had 301 total yards (215 passing, 86 rushing) and three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in the game.
Atlanta did hold Steve Smith to just four touches and 62 yards of offense, but rather than panic, Newton turned his attention to tight end Greg Olsen who pulled down eight catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Despite all the yardage and points the Falcons defense allowed, they did come up big when they needed to. Steve Smith got the ball on a reverse and Atlanta was able to knock it out of Smith’s hands where Atlanta recovered the football. On Carolina’s last possession, Newton was running for what should have been the game-clinching first down. Yet as he crossed the first down line, the ball was stripped from him and Carolina recovered the ball behind the first down marker. That allowed Matt Ryan and company to make their final game-winning drive.
Atlanta’s offensive line gets a D+. In the first three games of the season, Matt Ryan was sacked a total of four times. Against the Panthers, he was sacked a career-high seven times. Charles Johnson, Carolina’s best defensive lineman today racked up 3.5 of those 7 sacks.
It was an ugly day for Ryan who first was sacked on Atlanta’s opening drive and continued to get pummeled throughout the game. The lone reason the offensive line doesn’t get an F for the game was their brilliant protection of Ryan on Atlanta’s final drive starting out at Atlanta’s 1 yard line, allowing Ryan to throw the deep ball to Roddy White without either a sack or a holding call (both would have resulted in a safety).
Atlanta will try to go 5-0 next week against the Washington Redskins while the Panthers play the Seattle Seahawks.
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Matthew Asher is a freelance writer covering all things Atlanta sports related. His work can be found on Examiner.com.