The Falcons reinserted themselves into the NFC South dvision race in a big way Sunday. They took any early lead and never let it go. I'm not going to recap the game in this post, there's plenty of time as I will be doing a film review later. Instead I want to talk about the bigger picture.
The Panthers are still tied for the lead in the division so there's no reason to panic just yet. Winning on the road in the NFC South is proving to be a tough assignment this season. I believe they flashed a stat showing the division is 19-2 at home. This game was also closer than the score indicates, a quick look at the stat book for the game shows you that. There is still plenty of time to bounce back and the Panthers have shown us this season an ability to bounce back after a tough loss. In the end getting to the playoffs is the end goal, winning the NFC South would be a nice topper but is not necessarily required.
That said there are some disturbing trends in this game. DT Damione Lewis nails one right on the head.
"We are not getting off (the field) on third down," defensive tackle Damione Lewis said. "I mean, we're playing good defense on first and second downs and we're not getting out on third down. You have to get out on third down in this league. We had a very high percentage on third-down conversions and we haven't been doing it the last couple of weeks."
When the Panther defense needed a stop in the first half they couldn't get it. Consequently the Panthers dug themselves a hole while waiting for the offense to wake up. If you flashback to the previous three games they all started the same way except this time the Panthers were unable to rally. Just when the offense got it in gear and got the Panthers within three points the defense gave up a big play to WR Harry Douglas.
This game more than anything left me feeling like the Panthers were outcoached. Maybe the stats don't support that assumption since you'll see the Panthers actually had more yards and time of possession. It comes from the Falcons offense seeming to call the right play on 3rd and long over and over. It comes from the Panther offense continuing to run the ball when the only thing working was the pass. It comes from a special teams unit that seems to give up a big play when we can least afford one.
So was it really that bad?
"As ugly as it was, I don't think it's as bad as it looked by the score," Lewis said. "I think when we get in and look at the film, we're going to see some adjustments we need to make here and there, and I think we'll be fine."
Let's hope so. The road doesn't get any easier looking ahead.
So I ask you my loyal readers, what impact does this game have on the big picture?
Falcons WR Michael Jenkins converts a 3rd down