So there they are. The Falcons, who took their fans from a 6-1 start in their first seven games to 1-6 in the next seven, upset the previously unbeaten Carolina Panthers 20-13 Sunday at the Georgia Dome. My column on the game will appear soon on MyAJC.com.
Below are my "three short" takes on the game:
1 Back from the dead: Yes, this mattered, whether it was going to propel the Falcons to an unlikely playoff berth or not. The Falcons' six-game losing streak pretty much obliterated their postseason hopes but that didn't render the last three games of the season meaningless. A number of roster and potential front office and coaching staff decisions will be based on their finish. For that reason, the last two weeks are a good sign. The Falcons didn't play great in last week's win at Jacksonville, but they made big plays on both sides of the ball. Their performance in an upset of Carolina was their best of the season, given the backdrop of the two teams and what happened two weeks ago in Charlotte (Panthers 38, Falcons 0). A win like this doesn't mean everything is right. But maybe it reaffirms that not everything is wrong.
2. Abused Draft Picks Alert: Falcons second-year defensive tackle Ra'Sheed Hageman and rookie end Vic Beasley have been two of the team's more maligned players during their brief tenure, but both were outstanding against Carolina. Beasley had a sack/strip of Cam Newton to clinch the game (the strip was recovered by Adrian Clayborn, and he and Hageman both had good pressure on Newton. Overall, the defense held Carolina to 268 yards in offense and only 188 yards and two field goals after the Panthers drove to a touchdown on the opening drive of the game. So it's time to pull a few darts out of some players' pictures.
3. Matt Ryan making amends: Ryan has had arguably the worst season of his career but he finished strong against Jacksonville and he saved his best game of year for the Falcons' best opponent: 23 for 30 for 306 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions (rating: 119.6). Ryan charged with a fumble when he failed to handle a bad snap from center Mike Person, who continues to struggle (Devonta Freeeman earlier recovered a bad snap from Person). Ryan also had a nifty seven-year run on a third-and-2 to set up a touchdown, played in pain from a hit he took on that run and helped the Falcons' offense convert nine-of-15 third down situations. This was the quarterback the Falcons have been looking for.
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