Film Review report card: Falcons 31, Panthers 24

Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee levels Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and is ejected from the game during the second quarter on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee levels Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and is ejected from the game during the second quarter on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Here are the grades, after reviewing the film on, for the Falcons from their 31-24 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Run offense: Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith proved to be a lethal combination. Things started slowly with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly shutting things down. The Falcons kept chipping away at the edges of the defense, and the runs started to pop. On Coleman's 27-yard gain, center Alex Mack climbed to the second level and blocked Kuechly. Coleman glided through a big lane between right tackle Ryan Schraeder and right guard Brandon Fusco. Schraeder blocked Wes Horton and Fusco controlled Dontari Poe. It was the first signal that the running game would flourish. Coleman made a nice cut-back on his 36-yard run. Tight end Logan Paulsen had a nice seal block. The speedy Donte Jackson chased Coleman down. It would have been an A-plus if they had converted the third-and-1 at the two-minute warning, but fullback Ricky Ortiz couldn't hold his block on Kuechly, who combined with Shaq Thompson on the stop. Grade: A-minus

Pass offense: The second pass attempt of the game went to Calvin Ridley as the Falcons were determined to get him more involved in the offense. He picked up a 9-yard gain on a simple out-route. The announcers said that offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was making the offense more of his own this season and that he didn't have to run Kyle Shanahan's offense this season. Ryan moved the ball around to eight receivers. Ridley's touchdown reception was spectacular. The Falcons took those three deep shots – overthrown, underthrown and intercepted -- to Jones and that opened up things underneath for Ryan. He was 14-of-15 for 138 yards and a touchdown on passes that traveled less than 10 yards. Tight end Austin Hooper had a strong game. He made a nice outside cut to get away from Thompson on his touchdown catch in the second quarter.  Grade: A

Run defense: Duke Riley took some bad angles a few times, but settled down after a bumpy start. He played at full speed and will get more comfortable. The Falcons are patient with him as he gets some on-the-job training. "I thought productivity-wise, I don't know if he ended up with close to 10 tackles," Quinn said. "We thought it would be an active game for him. ... I thought he was secure in his tackles." The Falcons liked his hustle. "I definitely thought he had emptied the bucket, in fact so much so at the end we put Foye (Oluokun) in at the end of the game," Quinn said. The Damontae Kazee hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was pretty bad. Newton was going down to slide in between the 23- and 24-yard lines. Kazee is at the 19 and could have easily gone over the top of Newton or tagged him down. He lowered his head. The Panthers rushed 18 times for 121 yards. That's too much. Grade: C

Pass defense: Riley and safety Jordan Richards should have made a compression tackle on wide receiver D.J. Moore. He slid off Riley, and Richards didn't come over to wallop him. The 51-yard touchdown kept the Panthers in the game. Vic Beasley had a lot of spy duty. The Falcons were standing up him and Takkarist McKinley on some plays. McKinley got his sack while rushing from a stand-up position. The Falcons also bounced between four- and five-man fronts. They even jumbled the players up. They had McKinley at left end, Beasley left tackle, Grady Jarrett at right tackle and Jack Crawford at right end on third-and-15 from Carolina's 31 at the 2:00 mark of the second quarter. Ricardo Allen, Desmond Trufant and Blidi Wreh-Wilson all dropped interceptions. Grade B-minus

Special teams: Richards had a block in the back on the first punt return of the game in the first quarter, which pushed the starting point of the drive from the 35 to the 25. Bosher had 4.08 seconds of hang time on his first punt, a 39-yarder. Bosher had 4.66 seconds of hang time on the 42-yard punt in the third quarter. He nailed it on the 2-yard line, but Justin Bethel and Marvin Hall couldn't touch it down before it rolled into the end zone for a touchback. Bosher's last punt was a beauty (44 yards, 4.46 hangtime). It hit at the 7-yard line and rolled to the 4. Bethel touched it down. Matt Bryant made his only attempt, a 44-yarder. Ridley averaged 25 yards on two kickoff returns. Grade B-minus

Coaching: The Kazee hit was a bad reflection on the staff. He has to know better. The Falcons are lucky McKinley didn't get ejected. He went to Kazee's rescue after Torrey Smith knocked him down after the play. The offense was stellar in the red zone. The Falcons still can't pick up a yard when they really need it. The short-yardage attack must be addressed. That was one of the lessons from Super Bowl LI and it still hasn't been fixed. The defense couldn't close out the Panthers after Ryan built a 31-17 lead. Big improvement from Game 1, but there's plenty to fix for the coaching staff. Grade B-minus 

Next up: The Falcons (1-1) are set to host the Saints (1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes Benz Stadium. It will be the 98th meeting in the storied rivalry. The Falcons lead the series 51-46.

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