Falcons pummel Panthers for season sweep

Here’s the game-by-game look at the scores and schedule for the 2019 Atlanta Falcons.

It was a day for milestones and honors for the festive Falcons.

While former wide receiver Roddy White went into the Ring of Honor at halftime, quarterback Matt Ryan and wide receiver Julio Jones passed milestones as the Falcons hammered the Panthers 40-20 on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Falcons, scoring a season-high in points, improved to 4-9, while the Panthers, who have lost five a in a row, dropped to 5-8. The Falcons swept the season series between the NFC South foes.

“We have to show people that we’re always going to fight,” free safety Ricardo Allen said.

It was a big party, perhaps in White’s honor.

Ryan went past the 50,000  career passing yards mark and Julio Jones posted his sixth consecutive season with at least 1,000 yards receiving.

“For him to be doing it for so long and to keep producing is impressive,” Jones said. “That’s the biggest thing, the Ring of Honor for Roddy. As far as me and Matt, it’s bigger than us.

“It was a great team win. Everybody did their thing. The offensive line did a great job for us. The running game was going. The guys were making plays. The special teams were making plays for us. It was just a total team win today.”

The Panthers were playing their first game since former head coach Ron Rivera was fired on Tuesday. Interim head coach Perry Fewell was in charge.

Ryan completed 20 of 33 passes for 313 yards and two touchdowns. He finished with a passer rating of 112.3.

For just the third game this season, the Falcons rushed for more than 100 yards as they finished with 159 yards on 32 carries and two touchdowns.

“I thought we ran the football really, really well today,” Ryan said.

Carolina quarterback Kyle Allen completed 20 of 32 passes for 223 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He finished with a passer rating of 67.7.

With all the festivities going on, the Falcons took control of the game in the third quarter as free safety Damontae Kazee had a hand in on three turnovers -- two interceptions and a forced fumble. The Falcons converted four overall turnovers into 13 points.

“I knew I needed to step it up these past few weeks,” Kazee said. “I was just doing my job. I just wanted to go out there and play my heart out.”

The defense and special teams came up with turnovers, Devonta Freeman scored his first rushing touchdown of the season and Ryan connected with rookie Olamide Zaccheaus for a 93-yard touchdown pass.

The pass to Zaccheaus was the third longest pass play in franchise history. Bobby Hebert connected with Michael Haynes for a 98-yard touchdown in a 34-31 loss to the Saints on Sep. 12, 1993 and Chris Chandler had a 94-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Anderson in 24-16 win over the Panthers on Sept. 23, 2001.

“It was a chance to make a play,” Zaccheaus said. “I was trying to track the ball really. I couldn’t see the ball until the last second. I’m just grateful that I found it.”

The Panthers were in an all-out blitz and Ryan lofted the ball up for Zaccheaus in his own end zone. Ryan was knocked to the ground on the play. Zaccheaus tracked the slightly under-thrown ball and eluded Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson before racing into the end zone for a touchdown on his first career reception.

“We already talked about this way back when in the (exhibition) season when he was having great games,” Jones said. “He can ball. He can play. He just waited his turn.”

Zaccheaus made team as a undrafted rookie from Virginia.

“It’s just been a grind really,” Zaccheaus said. “Undrafted. Overlooked. A lot of things not going my way.

“I just know that I’m confident in what I can do. I’ll try to help the team in anyway that I can. I was just going to practice and practicing hard. If they give me a chance, I have to make the most of it.”

The Falcons amassed 259 yards of offense in the first half but only had a 13-10 halftime lead to show for all of the stats. The Falcons were 2 of 6 on third down and were 1 of 3 on trips inside the redzone. They wasted Kazee’s first interception as the offense could not come up any points.

After an exchange of possessions, the Falcons scored first on a 37-yard field goal by Younghoe Koo when their 13-play drive stalled at the Panthers’ 19 yard line.

The Panthers answered with a 47-yard field goal by Joey Slye to make it 3-3.

After an exchange of punts, Ryan found a wide open Calvin Ridley out to his right for an 18-yard touchdown. Ridley eluded the safety and stuck the ball out over the goal before running through the end zone. Koo’s extra point made it 10-3.

Kazee intercepted a pass intended for Carolina tight end Ian Thomas, who bobbled the ball up in the air. But the Falcons offense was held to a three-and-out after Ryan overthrew a wide open Jones on second-and-3 from the Panthers’ 41.

Allen finally got the Panthers moving and tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to tie the game 10-10.

The Falcons answered with a crisp drive that ended with Koo making a 35-yard field as the second quarter clock expired.

“The points right before the half were key,” Ryan said. “We still had our timeouts and went right down and scored. The defense got the ball back and that got the momentum going.”

The Panthers had the ball to open the third quarter, but Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley came up with a sack-strip and defensive tackle Tyeler Davison recovered. The Falcons converted this turnover into a 13-yard touchdown run by Freeman to make it 20-10.

After forcing a Panthers’ punt, Ryan connected to Zaccheaus to make it 27-10.

On the ensuing kickoff, Kazee forced a fumble with a bone-rattling hit on Carolina returner Greg Dortch. Koo recovered the ball and then added a 29-yard field goal to make it 30-10.

Koo addeda  50-yard field goal that slide in after hitting the right upright. Brian Hill added a 3-yard touchdown after the Panthers made a field goal.

The win could be costly for the Falcons lost cornerback Desmond Trufant to a forearm injury, Ridley to an abdominal injury and guard Wes Schweitzer to a shoulder injury. Trufant left the game with 2:12 left in the second quarter. Ridley and Schweiter left in the third quarter and did not return.

Carolina added a Allen touchdown with 1:26 to play.

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