The Falcons suffered a major blow to the secondary when Robert Alford left the game with a wrist injury in the first quarter against the Panthers on Sunday.
Alford, who did not return to the game, was replaced in the lineup by Robert McClain, who finished with three tackles, but was beaten for a 47-yard touchdown by Carolina wide receiver Philly Brown in the fourth quarter.
The score gave the Panthers the lead 17-16 as the Falcons blew another double-digit lead.
“Philly Brown caught that long pass on me,” McClain said. “I was kind of peeking inside at the quarterback. I was kind of looking to try and make a big play. He kind of slipped behind me. (Carolina quarterback) Cam (Newton) took a shot and threw it up.”
McClain didn’t try to place the blame on the scheme.
“That’s all me right there,” McClain said. “That was my man. I have to play better. I can’t cheat with my eyes. I have to have good eyes when I play. I just have to work on that for next week so that I don’t give up any explosive touchdowns.”
McClain said he’s ready to play if Alford misses extended action.
“Yeah, I’m ready to go,” he said.
McClain has played mostly inside, but he flipped flopped outside and Desmond Trufant matched up with Carolina rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
“That’s part of the game,” McClain said. “Guys are going to go down. But you have to always prepare like you’re going to play because you don’t know what’s going to happen in the game.”
The Falcons didn’t disclose the severity of Alford’s injury.
“(Robert) is a great player,” McClain said. “He’ll be back and healthy. I just have to keep trying to contribute and help the team. That’s the main thing is collecting wins and winning week by week.”
McClain was thankful the Falcons’ offense and special teams units helped to bail him out.
“After a win, you look at what you did good and what you did bad,” McClain said. “We are in a good spot in the division, but I don’t really look at that type of stuff. You just have to control your destiny by winning each game. That’s all we can ask, is to keep building on our positives.”
Bubble screens: The Falcons had a hard time completing one of their bread and butter plays: the bubble screen to wide receiver Julio Jones.
On one play, the Panthers appeared to just tackle Jones before the ball was thrown. That caught Jones off guard.
“I found out something that I didn’t know,” Jones said. “I thought when the ball was in the air, you can’t touch a receiver. If the ball is in there air… I don’t mind him trying to be physical and putting his hands on me, but if the ball is in the air I have rights to the ball.
“I can’t compete for the ball because you’re holding me down. I really didn’t get that today. But now, knowing that going forward, I’m just going to be a little bit more aggressive.”
Another bubble screen was nearly intercepted after it popped up in the air.
“They did a good job,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “Obviously, that’s a play that we’ve had success with. They did a good job of defending it today.”
Home sweet home: The Falcons have not played in the Georgia Dome since losing to Chicago on Oct. 12. The Falcons went 2-2 over four road games, including a home game that was played in London.
“Is it grass or turf in there,” Jones said. “They’ve probably remodeled the whole place. It will be good to get back to the fans. Back home, go out there and keep winning. We need to keep this thing going.”
Winning ugly: The Falcons are embracing winning ugly after stopping their five game losing streak against Tampa Bay and then following that up with a cliff-hanger against the Panthers.
“We have to win games like this, on the road,” Jones said. “We got the victory. We still have a long way to go. We have to continue to keep working… . That’s what championship teams do, they find a way to win. It doesn’t matter how you do it. It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly or if you blow people out. Just find a way to win.”
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