Report card: Falcons’ grades for win over Panthers

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White goes up for a long reception over Carolina Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura setting up the winning field goal for a 30-28 victory in the final minute of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Roddy White goes up for a long reception over Carolina Panthers safety Haruki Nakamura setting up the winning field goal for a 30-28 victory in the final minute of the game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday , Sept. 30, 2012. CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

Here are the Falcons’ grades for the 30-28 thrilling win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

B-plus – QUARTERBACKS: Matt Ryan completed 25 of 40 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. He finished with a quarterback rating of 107.2 and the Falcons improved to 27-0 when he has a passer rating of more than 100. He doesn’t have an ‘A’ because the last-minute drama would have been unnecessary if hadn’t thrown an interception in the end zone to Haruki Nakamura, whom he would later victimize, in the first quarter.

A-plus — RUNNING BACKS: Michael Turner powered his way to 103 yards on just 13 carries. He had some power runs and Jacquizz Rodgers chipped in with six rushes for 18 yards. Turner had his first career touchdown reception as he accounted for 171 total yards.

A-minus — RECEIVERS: Roddy White put on a show as he caught eight passes for 169 yards and two touchdowns. No catch was bigger than his 59-yarder over Nakamura to kick-start the final drive. Gonzalez (five for 51) was solid as Julio Jones was used primarily as a decoy as his hand heals.

D-minus — OFFENSIVE LINE: Matt Ryan was on the move in the pocket. Carolina’s Charles Johnson did his best Lawrence Taylor impersonation. He was camped out in the backfield when he wasn’t sacking Ryan or putting hits on him. He had 3.5 sacks and five quarterback hits. Some guy name Frank Alexander got in on the action, too. He had 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. The Falcons had given up just four sacks entering this game. The unit would have received an F, but they did spring Turner for more than 100 yards and they did hold up on the 59-yard pass play.

B — DEFENSIVE LINE: The defensive line did not adequately put Carolina’s Cam Newton under duress. They had three sacks and just three quarterback hits. They’ll have to ramp up the pass rush in the coming weeks. They were stout against Carolina’s zone-read dives as defensive end John Abraham had five tackles and tackle Jonathan Babineaux had three. Ray Edwards recovered a fumble and had three tackles.

B — LINEBACKERS: This group did most of the heaving lifting against the run. Stephen Nicholas led the team with eight tackles. Akeem Dent and Sean Weatherspoon both had four tackles. Both Nicholas and Weatherspoon had some nice open-field tackles on Cam Newton.

B — DEFENSIVE BACKS: Safeties Thomas DeCoud and William Moore had their toughest games of the season, but finished strong. Dunta Robinson forced a fumble on Steve Smith. Abraham saved Asante Samuel from getting into it scuffle with Steve Smith, when he just picked Samuel up and carried him away. Smith was held to three catches for 52 yards. Also, Robert McClain made his debut as the nickel back, replacing Dominique Franks.

A — SPECIAL TEAMS: Matt Bryant wasn’t around to tell us about the kick after the game, but he’s made nine in a row. Franks nearly broke another punt return for a touchdown, but was tripped up by Jason Phillips after an 18-yard return. Matt Bosher averaged a 42.4 on five punts and placed two inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line.

B — COACHING: The Falcons were running the ball down the Panthers’ throat on their second drive on the game, but started to pass inside the red zone and ended up tossing an interception. The call to get the field goal to cut it to 28-27 was an astute move. It paid off with the later field goal for the win. Sunday’s win against the Panthers moved Mike Smith ahead of Leeman Bennett who posted a 46-41 record between 1977 and 1982. Smith, who is now 47-21, trails only Dan Reeves who went 49-59-1 from 1997-03.

NEXT UP: Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins at 1 p.m. at FedEX Field.

121 comments Add your comment

Tommy Nobis belongs in HOF!

October 1st, 2012
6:20 am

If Turner would run every game like he did today, the Falcons would be unstoppable!


October 1st, 2012
6:26 am

The oline held up on the bomb to Roddy because it was a max protect formation that only sent Roddy and Julio deep. They should let a 4 man rush get to the Qb.


October 1st, 2012
6:26 am

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Tommy Nobis belongs in IHOP!

October 1st, 2012
6:48 am

Nobis for Canton!

JJ, you got to learn to drag those feet down on the sideline.


October 1st, 2012
6:50 am


Is there any prep advantage that the Falcons have in having to play vs. Cam Newton and RGIII in back-to-back weeks?

Also, I saw some other team yesterday (can’t remember who) doing the same type of amoeba defense that Nolan put in for the Falcons.


October 1st, 2012
7:05 am

Superman……………….Superman……………I want to lose like Superman


October 1st, 2012
7:17 am

After all these years of hearing Turner down the middle for one 30 times a game, the Falcons have finally figured out that by selectively using Turner, he has become more productive. Would much rather see him running 10-15 times a game along with a few screen passes. One of his most productive games ever and I didn’t have to hear Turner for one 25 times during a game.

Dirty Bird since 71`

October 1st, 2012
7:35 am

As long as the Falcons beat the tar out of the Aints twice this year we are a success. Beat em like a rented mule. Beat em like the stole something. Beat em like they are a red headed step child. Just beat em baby.


October 1st, 2012
8:00 am

Our O-Line was terrible in pass protection. Then again, these Panthers lineman are mo walk in the park, but still, I have no idea how we won that game with all the pressure on Matt and with Julio out of the game.

Mike is Back

October 1st, 2012
8:04 am

Dled, I thought the BIRDS might have a tough go of it…against CAM…especially since he is from the ATL…Hey, the BIRDS made the plays, when they had to…A win is a win.

RISE UP BIRDS…KEEP IT GOING..LET’S GO…LET’S GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


October 1st, 2012
8:07 am

I was at the game, and the stats just don’t look like what I saw. Defense was pretty vanilla from where I was sitting – I had kinda been hoping for that defense that showed up for the Broncos and Chargers. Don’t get me started on the O-line.


October 1st, 2012
8:09 am

Of course, when Newton figures out there are 21 other people on the team, he will be unstoppable.


October 1st, 2012
8:18 am

Saw Roddy’s interview on NFL Network where he came out and said he and Julio were the best outside receivers in football. I was thinking uh oh…But,then he has a statement game like this. He was incredible. I thought he was going to fade into the background this season, but he looks better than ever. Way to step up!
It’s hard to pick who to give a game ball to. Turner? First receiving TD and great north/south running, but he had a few drops as well. Robinson? Had strip, some great stops and was very physical when he played up at the line. Nicholas? He is everywhere and there just isn’t many yards after he makes contact. He abused Stewart. Bryant? One word. Money.
Who am I kidding? The game ball goes to Carolina coach Rivera for not going for that 4 and 1. In his defense though, how could he know that Ryan and White are dangerous from just about anywhere on the field?


October 1st, 2012
8:25 am

I understand we had a bad game on D … BUT they shut out chargers on there turf.. they let Cam light them up!! its time to get consistent !!!


October 1st, 2012
8:47 am

There was a huge adjustment from facing Rivers to Cam and RG3 next week. You subtract at least one guy from coverage just to spy the QB. Hopefully, this will benefit us as we prepare for Wash and Philly and their mobile QBs….

Jimmy Crack

October 1st, 2012
8:57 am

Mostly agree on the grades, DOL, but if you’re going to give the O line a D- (I agree with that) then maybe Ryan’s grade should get a boost from a B+ to an A- for “bravery under duress”. Even though he got roughed up for 4 quarters he never flinched in that pocket late in the game. I’d give Matt an A myself.


October 1st, 2012
8:58 am

Maybe the west coast game effected the team more this week than last week. The panties did have 3 more days to plan and rest. But who really cares about all that. The best team won. If Carolina was so dominate they should not had allowed Matt to move the ball from the one yard line to get the winning score. Ill not give any props to the panties…none. They must earn it from me.


October 1st, 2012
9:01 am

How in hell do you give the D a “B” rating when they were lit up by Newton all afternoon, especially on each and every sideline pattern they ran–they completed passes at will. I was at the game and watched the coverage played softer than I’ve ever seen it–they never challenged Newton in the pocket, and they never challenged the receivers either along the sidelines or across the middle–they played off 3-4 yards all afternoon. I’m amazed we weren’t torched far worse than we were. Great win, guys, but the defense played scared.

Go Falcons!

October 1st, 2012
9:12 am

Dunta Robinson dives and whiffs on too many tackles


October 1st, 2012
9:14 am

Every week is different in the NFL. Teams just do not blow out opposition 16 weeks in a row. That was a crucial first win in the NFC and in our division. Just count it and let’s get another next week.

Falcon James

October 1st, 2012
9:21 am

The Panther brought Superman and the Falcon brought Kriptonite.

This weekend saw a lot of close games. I would have liked to see our O-Line hold up better under the pass rush. Whatever the problem is will get worked out this week. I love the 4-0 start. Couldn’t ask for anything more from the team. Even Dunta had a good game and that is saying something. Nice Win!

Mr. Mustard

October 1st, 2012
9:21 am

Could not see the game this week, but caught the final 2 minutes.

I have been hard on Turner, so must be fair about his great game today. Play calling helped him and there is nothing wrong with that.

Offensive line giving up sacks and weak pressure from the defensive line are worrisome, but divisional games often are close and come down to turnovers or big plays. Familarity leads to level play.

So far, everything has gone the Falcons’ way. Great job.

Finally, Roddy White is a professional’s professional. Gifted athlete, hard worker, very smart and every year he grows as a leader and player.

With the game on the line, with one play left, you cannot do better than throwing the ball to Roddy White and I am beginning to believe in all of history.

Jerry Rice and Roddy White. Roddy’s that good and getting better.

Man, we can go into the week off undefeated, come back rested and the teams in our division sucks.

Playoffs! Need to figure them out. Great game Falcons. Keep it up.


October 1st, 2012
9:45 am

Yes everyone wants the Falcons to go every week and just blow the opposition away, but this is the NFL and all these teams want the same thing,a (W). Even though it was a little to close for comfort I was actually glad to see that our team not only could win the easy games,but really dig down deep and pull one out that looked as if we certainly were going to lose. GREAT JOB!!!!!!!! on to next week.


October 1st, 2012
9:51 am

Every college player should be watching tape of Dunta’s caused fumble. Get your heads up, and play the ball instead of putting your helmet in thier gut and you won’t break your neck, and you’ll still make the play.

I am elated obviously in the outcome, I’ve had a smile on my face all evening into the morning.

I expected this game to be a lot tougher than most people did. I hope Smitty can keep this group humble and hungry.

The shortcomings on the lines of scrimmage were on display, but so to were the differences in coordinators.

2 STOPS late in the 4th. 2!! A 60 yard bomb from MR2 with a great elbows in catch from Roddy White.

I said it before, I’ll say it again, this is my favorite Falcons team ever, flaws and all.


October 1st, 2012
9:56 am

Matt has never looked more proficient in a dirty pocket, the Panthers had a great rush, and he held it long at times, but he got rid of it with some proficiency too.

This is the team we’ve been dreaming of minus a better pass rush and a slightly better OL. They did a great job run blocking yesterday though. If Turner can go 13 for 103 you know the first guys touching him were second level.


October 1st, 2012
10:02 am



October 1st, 2012
10:02 am

Defense stepped up when needed, they will have to do better in contain next week against RGIII, who plays a lot smarter than Newton does at this point.

Pass protection was poor for the most part, but they will improve next week since the Redskins won’t have Orakpo.

Great job by Ryan and the offense, they seem to execute with more proficiency than we’ve seen since this regime started.


October 1st, 2012
10:02 am


Michael M.

October 1st, 2012
10:04 am

On the drive that went down the field and ended with the intercept in the red zone………..just think if Atlanta had of scored 7 then ………this game might not have been so close towards the end.

Either way you look at it though………… is over , and we the winners and sitting so pretty all by ourselves in first place on top of the Division !

………………STBzip…………….please stop by and tell us the Superbowl story you was telling us before the season started ……………………


October 1st, 2012
10:12 am

I was at the game, I sure would have liked us to put more hits on Cam when he was running that option play. When he’s doing that slow read with the fullback he’s a runner, not a passer, so we should be putting the wood to him. Something to think about for next time.

Falcon James

October 1st, 2012
10:13 am

Michael M….LMAO….

….”daddy, please tell me a story” in a child’s voice.


October 1st, 2012
10:18 am

Luck in the season, no luck in playoffs. Been there, done that.


October 1st, 2012
10:26 am

The game reminded me why I don’t like Cam Newton. When he scores, he runs away from teammates so he doesn’t have to share the spotlight with them – then does the little idiot-dance began by the all-time self-promoter, Deion.

Just a rehersed, solo-celebration. What a guy – no wonder some of his teammates can’t stand him already.

Mediocrity continues...

October 1st, 2012
10:27 am

Could you imagine waking up today a Carolina Panther fan? Coach with no balls, shoulda gone for it on 4th and 1 to close out the game. QB who cares more about looking cool and his image than winning a game.



October 1st, 2012
10:35 am

Definitely room for improvement, especially on the O-line, but still a gutsy win against a team that is much better than that Giants score led everyone to believe. Watching the defense have to deal with Cam was pretty nerve wracking. It almost feels like the defense and Nolan handle pocket passers much more efficiently than the mobile ones. Should be interesting to see if this helps them against RGIII next week.

Michael M.

October 1st, 2012
10:37 am

hehehe @ Falcon James………………………..where is that good for nothin at anyway……………he must have gotten abducted !


October 1st, 2012
10:38 am

Also, anyone saying the Panthers should have went for it on 4th and 1 must not remember our (Falcons) game against NO last year. I think it was the right call. Unfortunately for them Nakamura was terrible after that early interception, and somehow let Roddy by him. Not that I’m complaining =)

Michael M.

October 1st, 2012
10:42 am

I doubt if any team in the NFL today would have come back from down on the 1 , no timeouts and a minute to play and pulled out the win…………….Falcons caught em off guard on that bomb to Roddy………………we was lucky and fortunate it worked out our way……………..but heck. a win is a win and we will take it……………………………………….

Mike Franklin

October 1st, 2012
10:44 am

One game at a time… we’ll be fine.


October 1st, 2012
10:48 am

This was an offensive show and all the credit for this win goes to Dirk Koetter. There were various issues throughout the game such as fearsome pass rush, knicked up WR, land ong distances to cover quickly. You could see a tactical battle going on the entire game with Koetter adjusting the plays to counter the situation. He kept the foot on the peddle and never let up. There were times that a play did not go as planned but the offense came back fighting with a great play on the very next play. No one on offense was giving up. After failing to block for a pass, we saw the line muster a perfect run block. With 99 yards to go at the end of the game, that we didn’t seen a draw play on the first play of the drive. Every play in that drive was a masterpiece and it won them the game. Football is like that. You never know what is going to occur, you just have to have great schemes and adapt to need. The defense did enough but the offense won this one for them. By the way, do the Falcons have WEAPONS on offense? Way to go Falcons! YOU ARE RISING UP!


October 1st, 2012
10:51 am

I still find Turner not running right. The few he broke were due to staying square to the endzone. You dont need to dance when you are his size…Hit the hole…Make a hole…Just run and quit messing around.

Damage Inc.

October 1st, 2012
10:58 am

In the NFL you are as good as your record. When you are one of the best teams you are going to get the best from the teams that you play. Carolina was HYPED and had ten days rest. Carolina always has a good defense, especially the front four. Good thing for us they also have something we used to have. A self absorbed, egomaniac who thinks it better to look good losing rather than look bad winning. I’ll take the W.


October 1st, 2012
10:58 am

Roddy White stepped up his game and played an all-out monster of a game. It was probably Roddy’s finest hour as a pro, but of course Ryan gets all of the headlines–ryan closing in on greatness. Thanksfully, the NFL’s countdown crew recognized whites performance sunday and voted him the player of the day, giving white national recognition. Of course Ryan threw the pass to white and was equally as impressive, but nothing should diminish whites performance because although the falcons made countless mistakes, they were flawless in a few details that they had to be perferct with in order to secure the victory. Although it was a team effort, I think the three men who were the most responsible for Sundays victory over the hapless panthers were coach Mike Smith, qb Matty “Ice” Ryan, and Roddy White. All three were flawless when they had to be.


October 1st, 2012
11:24 am

Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Michael Turner, Matt Bryant and the Falcons know how to RISE UP!! Can’t wait to see more RISE UP feats of the DIRTY BIRDS!!

Senior Falcon

October 1st, 2012
11:28 am

When Tyson Clabo did adequately the past couple of years it was because other DCs were picking on the injured Sam Baker who has recovered and is now playing well. That leaves Clabo as the weak link but how do you fix it?

[...] with the win and subsequent move to 4-0, the Falcons didn’t receive top scores from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nor should they [...]


October 1st, 2012
11:34 am

Clabo has been playing hurt this week. That’s why he had trouble. Johnson blew by him and Mike Johnson on the edge one time.

I credit Johnson playing well more than the Falcons OL playing poorly this week. They came to play after being ripped for 10 days after the Giants loss.

St Simons

October 1st, 2012
11:41 am

Johnson and Baker, I’m sure they’re fine fellers,
but just not high level NFL linemen.

That was Carolina’s super bowl. They knew they were out of it w/a loss.

They beat us all over the field. Be honest. We did not bring the heat
yesterday. We should have dominated, embarrassed the Scam.

Matt Ryan is big-time. The receiving corp is the best in the league.
That kicker is the ice-man.

Great entertainment, but O & D lines win championships.

Grape Nuts are neither grapes or nuts

October 1st, 2012
11:50 am

My Grades:

QB – B + Ryan was good, but nothing form McNown
RB – A
WR – A+ The block Roddy made on the Turner TD is all you need to know about Roddy
DL – C – Lots of rushing yards and not enough pressure on Cam
DB – B
ST – A Bosher is wayyyyy better than last year.
Coaching – C Why oh why did they change the flow of the game each time in the red zone? The ground game was working, yet when in the red zone, they went to the air.

Fans – B Loud, but still wait too long to get in their seats
Concessions – D Why did Taco Mac take Red Brick Blonde out of the line up and replace it with Shock Top?

MARTA – B – Had plenty of trains lined up after the game was over.

Weather – F It was raining hard when I got off MARTA.

Sleep -D – I did not sleep well last night.

Drive in to work – F – Traffic was horrible