CHARLROTTE, N.C. -- It was a busy week for Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker.
He welcomed his first child into the world, didn’t miss practice and helped the Falcons defeat the Carolina Panthers 29-21 Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
Walker stepped in front of a Cam Newton pass and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown on his first career interception in the NFL. He was seen on the sidelines acting like he was rocking a baby.
“I got to rock the baby,” Walker said Sunday. “My baby is five days old now. ….He’s at home. I can’t want to get back home.”
Walker did a great job of disguising his coverage on the play.
“What goes unnoticed was the coordinator effort,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said on Monday. “That was a great call by Dean (Pees). Mykal popped out there. Foye did a nice job on the rush, wrapping around and Mykal popped in there.”
Newton said after the game that he didn’t see Walker on the play.
“Cam probably didn’t realize where Mykal was popping from,” Smith said. “It was a good disguise, but it was good by all 11. It takes everybody to do their job. It was a good job by Mykal of being in the right spot and taking advantage of it.”
In addition to doing a good job on the rush, Oluokun showed some discipline in his blocking of Newton during Walker’s return to the end zone.
“It was a really good job by Foye, too, not doing anything to light people up,” Smith said. “Using the rules to make sure that helped Mykal get into the end zone.”
Walker is a big fan of Newton, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Westlake High in metro Atlanta who’s in his second stint with the Panthers.
“I’ve got to take it back here,” Walker said. “Cam Newton is my favorite player. Cam Newton and LeBron James, growing up, they were my favorite players ever. It’s insane. It was my first interception. Baby was born a couple of days ago. I’m on cloud nine right now.”
Walker’s big play was a hit with the other defenders.
“He deserved that one,” outside linebacker Steven Means said. “He said that when he was running he was praying for Foye to ‘please block him. Please block Cam.’ It was a cool experience to see him have that moment.”
“Whenever you get contributions from the depth on your team, it’s always a wonderful thing,” defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. “To see the young guys have success, make some big plays that impact the game in a big way, Marlon last week and Mykal this week, that is just going to continue to build for them. The best football for them is ahead of them.”
Walker has been wanting to play Newton since the Falcons selected him in the fourth-round of the 2020 draft out of Fresno State.
“I was bummed out last year when he wasn’t here when we played against Carolina,” Walker said. “Then he wasn’t on the Patriots and I was bummed out then. So, we finally got a chance to play against him. It was pretty cool.”
Walker knows he’ll be talking about this day in the future to his son.
“I’m definitely going to let him know that your Daddy was pretty athletic,” Walker said. “No, it’s going to be a good moment that we can experience together. I can’t wait to build up memories for him.”
The Falcons defense has been improving since they were routed 43-3 by Dallas on Nov. 14. The stood up to New England before things went haywire late in the fourth quarter. Held Jacksonville to 14 points and battled against Tom Brady and the Bucs.
They had a personal challenge to stop the run against the Panthers who amassed 203 yards on 47 carries in the previous meeting on Oct. 31. Walker and the Falcons defense held the Panthers to 91 yards rushing on 26 carries.
“I think we just have a bunch of hungry guys out there,” Walker said.
With Deion Jones out with a shoulder injury, Walker started against Jacksonville and led the Falcons with 11. Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees said he had to find ways to get Walker on the field and he did that against the Panthers.
“I’ve always believed in myself,” Walker said. “I feel like I’m a starter in this league and prepare every week like that. I feel like Marlon (Davidson) and J. Hawk (Jaylinn Hawkins), those guys are, too. So, when we get our opportunity, its all about seizing the moment when you get your opportunities.”
Walker believes the players have a knowledge of the scheme and are now just playing football in the flow of the game.
“We are really comfortable,” Walker said. “It’s playing the same calls over and over again. Then you get to put your little thing on it. At first, we were trying to learn the defense. So, you do everything on the book. As you know, football is not Xs and Os. Really, you have to put your own little flavor on it. I think this defense is really taking over.”
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Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12
Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19
Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26
Falcons at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2
New Orleans Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9
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