ATLANTA – Matt Ryan and Julio Jones are off to great starts this season with the Atlanta Falcons. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers can’t say the same.
Ryan and Jones set team records in the Falcons’ 48-33 victory over the Panthers, who lost Newton in the fourth quarter to a possible concussion.
Ryan, who was named the NFC offensive player of the month for September, completed 28 of 37 passes for a record 503 yards and four touchdowns. Jones hauled in 12 passes for a record 300 yards and a 75-yard TD.
The bomb to Jones in fourth quarter put the Falcons’ third straight victory away after Newton was hurt early in the quarter on a failed two-point try.
The reigning NFL MVP was evaluated for a concussion after he was hit by Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones on the play that followed Newton’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Kelvin Benjamin.
Newton was 14 of 25 passing for 165 yards. He was replaced by veteran backup Derek Anderson, who threw touchdown passes of 14 yards to Greg Olsen and 16 yards to Corey Brown before Robert Alford’s first of two late interceptions and 30-yard TD return closed out the Atlanta victory.
The Ryan and Jones leading the way, the Falcons spoiled Carolina’s bid for a perfect regular season a year ago and this time solidified their hold on first place in the NFC.
The Falcons are 3-1 after an opening loss, while the Panthers fell to 1-3 a season after a trip to the Super Bowl.
Three of the Falcons’ four touchdown drives covered more than 90 yards – including marches of 98 and 99 yards — and the other went 71. The Panthers had no answer for Ryan and Jones, who had just one catch for 18 yards in the previous game against New Orleans.
The Falcons overcame an ill-fated return decision by Eric Weems with the second-half kickoff to go 99 yards. Ryan was 7 of 8 on the drive, which was capped by a 44-yard TD throw to wide open rookie tight end Austin Hooper.
Then Atlanta went 92 yards in nine plays when it got the ball back, with Aldrick Robinson catching a 35-yard TD pass from Ryan. Then Matt Bryant’s 53-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter made it a 34-10 lead.
Ryan’s 500-yard game was the 19th in NFL history; only five other 300-yard receiving games have been recorded all-time.
Jones burned Carolina for 170 yards on seven first-half catches, but the Panthers were within 17-10 at the halftime thanks to Ryan’s one bad moment.
Safety Kurt Coleman, voted to the Pro Bowl last season, returned a Ryan pass deflected by linebacker Thomas Davis 8-yards early in the second quarter after the Falcons were pinned back on an Andy Lee punt. Then the teams exchanged field goals, with Matt Bryant connecting from 28 yards for Atlanta after a 53-yard catch by Jones and Graham Gano kicking a 54-yarder for Carolina.
The Falcons covered 71 yards in eight plays on their first possession and went 98 yards on five plays in their second as Ryan completed his first eight passes for 133 yards. Jones had 94 of those on four catches, including a 43-yarder.
Tight end Jacob Tamme caught a 4-yard TD pass from Ryan for the first TD and running back Devonta Freeman had a 13-yard run for the second.
NOTES: Panthers LB Thomas Davis left the game (hamstring) left the game in the third quarter. … Panthers rookie CB James Bradberry returned after hurting a toe on his left foot in the first quarter. … With LT Michael Oher (concussion) out, the Panthers moved RT Mike Remmers over to the left side and gave a start to backup RT Daryl Williams. … The Panthers were also without RB Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) and DT Vernon Butler (ankle). … Panthers DE Charles Johnson, listed as questionable with a quad injury, started. … LB DeVondre Campbell (ankle) and LB Paul Wornlow (groin) missed the game for the Falcons.