Entering week nine, the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers found themselves in very different positions. Carolina was on the rise, with quarterback Cam Newton playing the best football of his career and continuing to be consistent in all aspects of his game. Atlanta was decimated by injuries and the season outlook was grim.
If the Falcons could go undefeated for the remainder of the year starting against Carolina, they might have a shot to make the playoffs. But, by falling to 2-6, their season may be all but over with.
Indeed, the Falcons dropped their sixth game of the year as Carolina trounced them 34-10, led by a pair of touchdowns from Newton — one through the air and one on the ground. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, went 20-for-27 for 219 yards and a touchdown. The problem, though, was that three of those incompletions happened to be interceptions.
One of those picks was returned for a score by Drayton Florence in the fourth quarter, as Carolina continued to prove they are one of the best defenses in all of football this season.
The Panthers have now won four straight and find themselves right behind the New Orleans Saints at 5-3, looking at a wildcard spot for the moment. Atlanta’s season appears to be a lost cause, and at this point they can begin playing for pride.
It’s tough to say that Atlanta would be at a different spot had they been healthy offensively, because their defense has been a huge issue. They’ve given up at least 27 points per game in every contest this season except for week one. The Falcons haven’t been good against the run or the pass, thus as a whole defensively, they’ve looked a bit lost.
As Newton and his Panthers are riding a hot streak and thinking playoffs, the Falcons can only sit back and wait until next year to pursue that Lombardi trophy again. I have a feeling after this year, the Falcons may experience a shake up in their front office and within their coaching staff. Atlanta is in a very unfamiliar territory and 2-6 is inexcusable regardless of injuries.