NFL 2009: Panthers dodge the Falcons ball

True story.  My alarm clock went off at 6:30 in the morning.  There were string instruments.  I got up, went to the bathroom, started brushing my teeth, and then thought, hey, the Falcons haven’t played yet.

The Atlanta Falcons in Carolina Panthers home turf on Fox.  Any predictions?  The first heart-thumping play of the first quarter occurred when Falcons running back Michael Turner ran forty yards into Panther territory.  Jason Elam went on the field at the end of that possession to make a thirty-five yard field goal.  Atlanta 3 and Carolina 0.  The Panthers weren’t going to have any Falcons’ scoring first and responded with a mean drive down to the end zone thanks to wide receiver Steve Smith’s catch and run, and running back Jonathan Stewart crossing the goal line (who gave the TD ball to a female fan behind the end zone).  Carolina 7 and Atlanta 3.

Sour puss’n boots.  How are the Panthers “doing this” offensively?  This meaning getting down to the red zone in a matter of breaths in the top of the second quarter.  Steve Smith made a pretty awesome TD catch.  Carolina 14 and Atlanta 3.  Have the Falcons taken a cue from their opponents in getting down the field?  Quarterback Matt Ryan made a lovely pass to wide receiver Roddy White to get the birds just shy of the goal line.  After two unsuccessful tries (a pass to tight end Tony Gonzalez and a run attempt by running back Jason Snelling), the Falcons finally made it in for a TD with six minutes left in the first half–thanks to Snelling.  Carolina 14 and Atlanta 10.  Matt Ryan threw an interception in the bottom of the second quarter; Panthers cornerback Sherrod Martin got his bosom to the ball.  Steve Smith TD number two but at the expense of his noggin lower back.  Replays suggested that Falcons safety Thomas DeCoud’s knee might’ve rammed into Smith’s lower back.  Carolina 21 and Atlanta 10.

The third quarter commenced with much potential for a Falcons touchdown.  But, there would be a field goal instead.  Carolina 21 and Atlanta 13.  Nearing the bottom of the third quarter, I was overcome with feelings of “I can’t watch!”  et j’ai mal a la tete.  What was that? Hope? L’espoir est retourne!  Jason Snelling, Michael Jenkins, and Tony Gonzalez made necessary strides to get the Falcons into the red zone.

The fourth quarter began with a Falcons TD catch by tight end Justin Peelle.  Peelle was able to get away from the huddled mass at the line of scrimmage.  The two-point conversion wasn’t successful.  Carolina 21 and Atlanta 19.   By the middle of the quarter, the Falcons had summoned up a substantial amount of rhythm and agility to get across the field (Tony Gonzalez and Roddy White made important catches)…and then Mike Smith threw in the red flag to contest the exact location of the ball after the ball was just snapped and a heap of bodies converged on Matt Ryan.  Smith lost the challenge and Jason Elam’s field goal was nowhere near the uprights.  Wide left.  No, not just wide left.  The ball appeared to be at least seven to ten feet away from the cross beam.   The shadow over innsmouth just got darker.  Matt Ryan threw his second interception of the day, over the head of Michael Jenkins and into the hands of Panthers cornerback Richard Marshall.  Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart made his second TD of the day just a few plays later.  Nearing the two-minute warning, Carolina 28 and Atlanta 19.  Final score.

Observations & Miscellania:

1.  Kenny Albert and Daryl Johnston provided commentary.  For the love of the Forbidden City, why is there a yellow handkerchief in Moose Johnston’s breast pocket?  C’est moche.

2.  The Falcons had a pretty impressive second go “at bat,” but they were unable to get far enough into Panthersville.  Seconds before commercial break, the telecast cut to a high-angle medium close-up of a helmet-less, red-faced Matt Ryan walking to the bench on the sidelines.  The words, “shite, dayam” could be deciphered from his mouth.  He certainly said the latter.

3.  Michael Turner’s right ankle was battered a bit late in the second quarter.

4.  There was a moment when I started losing faith in a favorable outcome on the score board.  Middle of the third quarter when the Panthers were taking the ball down the field.  I’m not sure why it happened.  It just did.  But a sliver of hope re-ignited as the Falcons blocked a fifty-one yard field goal attempt by the Panthers.

5.  After the Justin Peelle TD in the top of the fourth quarter and it became apparent that the Falcons would go for two, Daryl Johnston kept expressing his criticism of the decision to go for two.  When the Panthers were on offense next, he reprised his thoughts that two-point conversions should be saved for the final six minutes of the fourth quarter.  Sure, most teams would probably save it for the last four to six minutes, but psychologically, perhaps the Panthers would see that they still have a lead (even a two-point lead) and let their anxiety down just enough for the Falcons to make another much needed TD.

6.  Footage of the Jason Elam missed FG indicated that there was likely some miscommunication between him and holder Michael Koenen.

Get game summary, stats, and play-by-play here.

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