5 things learned from Falcons’ 19-13 loss to Panthers

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

Caption
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan had a tough day agains the Panthers with two interceptions.

Credit: D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Panthers went old school on the Falcons.

In a throwback game, the Panthers leaned heavily on their rushing attack and sprinkled in some field goals on their way to a 19-13 victory Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Panthers improved to 4-4, and the Falcons, playing without wide receiver Calvin Ridley, dropped to 3-4.

The Falcons had an opportunity to take the lead, but Pro Bowl kicker Younghoe Koo missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt three plays into the fourth quarter.

“It’s a 12-10 game in the fourth quarter,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We are right there. We don’t catch a third down, and we miss a field goal. It wasn’t the prettiest game offensively. At worst, (make the field goal), it’s 13-12 and who knows?”

The Panthers controlled the clock as they rushed 47 times for 203 yards and a touchdown. Rookie running back Chuba Hubbard rushed 24 times for 82 yards and a touchdown after he fumbled on the first play of the game.

The Panthers won the time of possession, 35 minutes, 23 seconds to 24:37.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw two interceptions and completed 20 of 27 passes for 146 yards and had a passer rating of 67.8.

Ryan was sacked three times and hit nine times as the Falcons had trouble blocking the Panthers’ stout defensive front. The rushing attack could only muster 82 yards on 20 carries.

“Credit to Carolina, I thought they played well,” Ryan said. “Their defense did a great job. Played hard. They played better than us today.”

The Falcons added a 53-yard field goal with 16 seconds left, but couldn’t recover the onside kick.

Here are the five things we learned from the loss:

1. Field-goal fest: Carolina’s Zane Gonzalez made four field goals, including a 57-yarder at the end of the first half. He booted a 23-yard field goal with 3:33 left in the third quarter to put the Panthers up 12-10.

The short field goal capped a 16-play, 78-yard drive that took 8:41 off the clock.

Falcons free safety Erik Harris had a big hit on wide receiver Robby Anderson at the 8:59 mark. He was down for a while, but walked off on his own.

“Just instincts, you know,” Harris said. “I was getting depth because I had D.J. Moore to my side. I saw Robby Anderson coming to my side, playing vision on the quarterback. I was just trying to make a football play.”

Gonzalez also made field goals of 29 and 51 yards.

Falcons outside linebacker Ade Ogundeji recovered a fumble by Hubbard on the first play of the game, but the offense couldn’t convert the turnover into a touchdown. They had to settle for a 46-yard field goal to go up 3-0.

The Panthers answered with Gonzalez’s first field goal. After an exchange of punts, the Falcons put together an eight-play, 61-yard touchdown drive. Ryan tossed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson to put them up 10-3.

Patterson powered his way into the end zone from the 3-yard line as he ran through Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson.

Koo missed a 45-yard field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter that could have put the Falcons up 13-12. It was wide right.

“You’ll never know,” Smith said. “It didn’t happen. We dropped it (on third down), and we missed it.”

The Panthers answered with a 15-play, 65-yard touchdown drive that was led by quarterback Sam Darnold until he was knocked out of the game on a hard tackle by Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun. Darnold ran eight times for 66 yards.

P.J. Walker finished the drive, and Hubbard scored on 6-yard run to put the Panthers up 19-10 with 6:30 to play.

2. Ridley misses second game: Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley was declared inactive for the game.

Ridley missed the game against the Jets in London on Oct. 10 because of a personal matter. He played last week against Miami and practiced all week. The team found out Sunday morning that he would not be available.

He’s again dealing with another personal matter, according to the team. Late in the game he tweeted a statement that read in part, “These past few weeks have been very challenging, and as much as I’d like to be on the field competing with my teammates, I need to step away from football at this time and focus on my mental wellbeing. This will help me be the best version of myself now and in the future.”

Tajae Sharpe started for Ridley, who has 31 catches for 281 yards and two touchdowns.

Sharpe had five catches for 58 yards.

“He’s a great player,” Ryan said. “You try and utilize other guys when he’s not up. We still have enough players. We trust the guys that are up on game day to go make plays. Unfortunately, we fell a little bit short of that today.”

3. Gilmore vs. Pitts: Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a four-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro selection, was activated by the Panthers on Saturday.

He was called for a pass interference while attempting to cover Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts in the second quarter.

It was on third-and-8 from the Falcons’ 38. The penalty gave the Falcons a first down.

Seven plays later, Ryan was intercepted by linebacker Shaq Thompson on a pass intended for tight end Hayden Hurst.

Gilmore intercepted a Ryan pass at the Carolina 15 with 1:58 to play in the game after the Falcons had driven to the Carolina 30, trailing 19-10.

“That’s a better defense when Shaq Thompson is in there,” Smith said. “They added Gilmore in there. I knew he was going to play some man coverage. They matched him up on Kyle.”

Pitts, who had back to back 100-yard games, was held to two catches for 13 yards.

“He’s a great player and kind of gave me a welcome into the NFL, so I know how to come back and do better next week,” Pitts said.

What exactly did Pitts learn from Gilmore?

“He’s just a previous defensive player of the year and did some different things that I haven’t seen before,” Pitts said. “So, it’s just a time for me to go back to the lab and fix it.”

4. Climbing over .500: The Falcons have not been over .500 since the end of the 2017 season, when they finished 11-7 after losing to the Eagles in the playoffs.

The Falcons had won three of their past four games. Those victories were over teams with a combined record of 4-16.

“We wanted to win the game and get above .500,” said linebacker Foye Oluokun, who finished with 16 tackles. “Keep ourselves feeling good, but now it’s back to work and to get the next ‘W.’”

5. Glove man: Ryan’s left hand needed medical attention after it was stepped on and bled for several minutes as he finished a drive before medical personnel could treat him.

Carolina defensive end Morgan Fox stepped on Ryan’s hand.

Ryan did not miss any time, but wore a glove after receiving treatment.

“The hand is fine,” Ryan said. “It was just a cut.”

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Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Next Four Games

Panthers at Falcons, 1 p.m., Sunday, October 31

Falcons at Saints, 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 7

Falcons at Cowboys, 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14

Patriots at Falcons, 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 18

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