What We Saw: Falcons at Panthers

Fake punt alert!...and all the action from Thursday Night Football

Falcons @ Panthers

 

After a promising start, this contest between the 3-4 Carolina Panthers and the 2-5 Atlanta Falcons quickly turned ugly. These two teams, who really struggled with their red zone offense all night, have terrible offensive lines, and both Matt Ryan and Teddy Bridgewater spent a lot of the night scurrying around in the backfield trying to make plays. The 3rd down efficiency of both offenses tells the story – Falcons 33%, Panthers 20%.

We know this young Panthers defense has a lot to learn, but to allow Matt Ryan to scamper clumsily in from 20+ yards out for a rushing TD was a big mistake, a naivety that the Panthers did not recover from. They let him do something similar late in the 3rd quarter, allowing him to scramble for 10 yards on 3rd and 7 to extend a drive that resulted in a touchdown for Todd Gurley, a score that put the Falcons in the driving seat. The Falcons run out 25-17 winners.

The play of the day, however, came from an unlikely source. The Panthers had already been stuffed on two 4th down attempts, turning the ball over on downs in Falcons territory. So, after incurring a 5-yard penalty for a false start on a 4th and 4 punt attempt, the Panthers’ special teams unit successfully executed a fake punt thanks to a 28-yard run from the rookie defensive back, Jeremy Chinn.

 

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

Matt Ryan: 21/30, 281 yards, 1 INT, 2 sacks | 6 carries, 27 yards, 1 TD

 

Who’s a lucky boy, then? Matt Ryan (18.94 fantasy points), that’s who! This was far from an accomplished performance from Ryan, who has now been held to one or zero TDs in the passing game in 4 of his last 5 starts. Surprisingly, it was his legs that got the job done tonight – taking advantage of some average defensive play from the Panthers, he managed to trundle in for a score in the 2nd quarter.

 

 

It was an infuriating night watching this Falcons offense, who went down the field easily at times but then messed around in the red zone to limit drives to field goals – kicker Younghoe Koo went 4-for-4 but also missed an extra point. None was more so irritating than the first drive, Ryan connecting with Julio Jones for passes of 24 and 28-yards before offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter chose to kick a field goal on 4th and inches at the Carolina 3-yard line. You just have to go for it there!

Ryan’s interception was horrible. He has become vulnerable due to his habit of lofting passes up under pressure intending to give his receivers the opportunity to get to the ball. However, too often these result in turnovers.

 

 

He was lucky not to throw another pick in the endzone on a similar throw to Jones. Ryan also had to contend with losing Calvin Ridley to an ankle injury. This limits his upside in a serious fashion going forward.

 

Running Backs

 

Brian Hill: 11 carries, 55 yards | 2 carries, 9 yards

Todd Gurley: 18 carries, 46 yards, 1 TD

Qadree Ollison: 1 carry, 3 yards

 

This rushing attack was anaemic going into the 2nd half with Todd Gurley (10.60 fantasy points) totaling just 4 yards on 6 carries. Luckily the Panthers gassed defense kept giving away silly penalties in the second half and Gurley finally managed to get an opportunity on 1st and goal. He did not miss out.

 

 

Gurley remains a high-end RB2 in this pass-heavy attack. Brian Hill (8.40 fantasy points) again showed much more pop than Gurley and can be credited with kickstarting this rushing attack in the second half. He is unlikely to see many goal-line carries with Gurley around though, unfortunately. He also nearly got taken out by an official tonight!

 

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

Julio Jones: 10 targets, 7 receptions, 137 yards

Hayden Hurst: 7 targets, 5 receptions, 54 yards

Calvin Ridley: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 42 yards

Russell Gage: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 25 yards

Christian Blake: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 14 yards

Keith Smith: 1 target

 

It is always worth tuning in to watch the Falcons because of Julio Jones (20.70 points). The veteran wideout recorded yet another 100-yard game and simply toyed with the young Carolina secondary all evening. The major issue tonight was the inability of Ryan to find him in the endzone – 3 targets went begging in the redzone.

 

 

The loss of Calvin Ridley (7.20 fantasy points) to what looks like a nasty ankle injury left a sour taste in the mouth after the game. Coming into this contest as the No.1 wide receiver in fantasy so far this season, Ridley sustained the injury after a nice catch and run out of the slot for 19 yards, a play that eventually set up the Ryan touchdown run. He will be near impossible to replace. Russell Gage (4.30 fantasy points) should be the main beneficiary if Ridley does indeed miss time.

Hats off to tight end Hayden Hurst (10.40 fantasy points) on another amazing grab. This is his second miraculous grab in consecutive weeks.

 

 

Carolina Panthers

 

Quarterback

 

Teddy Bridgewater: 15/23, 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 3 sacks| 5 carries, 30 yards

P.J. Walker: 1/4, 3 yards

 

It was a tale of two halves for Teddy Bridgewater (13.04 fantasy points on Yahoo!) – in the first half, the Panthers offense looked to be firing nicely, including an opening 6-play, 52-yard touchdown drive where Bridgewater expertly picked through the Falcons defense. Then he connected with Curtis Samuel for another touchdown on the back of a flea-flicker.

 

 

It all fell apart from Bridgewater in the second half as the Panthers offense could not convert on numerous 3rd and 4th down attempts. It did not help that his offensive line could not deal with the A-gap blitz all night. Bridgewater was also knocked out of the game for a key drive with the Panthers deep in Falcons territory – Teddy was the victim of a dirty trip from Dante Fowler as well as a late hit from Charles Harris on the same play.

 

 

Bridgewater threw a late pick under immense pressure after getting the ball back with nearly 3 minutes left on the clock and trailing by 8. It is something he has struggled with in the past, and despite connecting with D.J. Moore on a deep pass on the final drive, it never looked like he would lead this team back for the win. He remains a low-end QB2, and value streaming option.

 

Running Backs

 

Mike Davis: 13 carries, 66 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, 11 yards

Jeremy Chinn (DB): 1 carry, 28 yards

 

It was confirmed that Christian McCaffrey, despite practicing in a limited capacity in the week, would not suit up for this game so the rock was once again entrusted to Mike Davis (8.70 fantasy points). He showed promising signs early on but didn’t have any impact when it mattered, failing to convert a couple of times on 3rd down runs. With CMC expected back for the game in Kansas City next week, Davis will be relegated to a backup role once more.

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

 

D.J. Moore: 6 targets, 2 receptions, 55 yards

Robby Anderson: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 48 yards

Curtis Samuel: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 31 yards, 1 TD | 3 carries, 23 yards, 1 TD

Ian Thomas: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 28 yards

Chris Manhertz: 1 target, 1 reception, 6 yards

Colin Thompson: 1 target

 

It was a quiet night for everyone not named Curtis Samuel (21.40 fantasy points) in the Panthers receiving room as this offense consistently struggled to move the sticks against what has been a terrible Falcons defense this season. Samuel had both a rushing and a receiving touchdown in the first half as the Panthers raced out to a 14-6 lead. With CMC missing, he made the most of his opportunities when lining up in the backfield.

 

 

D.J. Moore (7.50 fantasy points) was the big fantasy bust of the night. He could only nab 2-of-6 targets, and one of those was a face-saving 42-yard grab with just 1:47 left in the game. Bridgewater looked to rush his process more as the game went along as he came under fire thanks to his terrible offensive line. That didn’t help Moore in completing his routes, and many of the targets were thrown short or simply gave him little chance to haul them in.

Similar can be said for Robby Anderson (9.80 fantasy points), who has been prolific all year and saw more time operating out of the slot again today. Neither of Moore or Anderson has probably burned your week in terms of fantasy but you would have certainly been expecting more against the Falcons.

 

Photos by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire and Lisa Ferdinando on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Defense | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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