September 16, 2018 / 9:23 PM / 2 months ago

Ryan leads Falcons over Panthers, 31-24

EditorsNote: Changed “connected” to “connecting in Graf 13; Added Newton stat update, also had 1 interception

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ offense bounced back impressively from a subpar outing in the season opener, recording touchdowns on all four red-zone possessions in a 31-24 home victory over the Carolina Panthers.

Ryan, who frequently misfired in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Falcons (1-1) defeated the Panthers (1-1) for the fourth straight time in Atlanta and fifth in six games overall.

Ryan completed 23 of 28 passes for 272 yards and Tevin Coleman, filling in for Pro Bowl running back Devonta Freeman, gained 107 yards on 16 carries, becoming the first player to rush for 100 yards against Carolina in 22 games.

Cam Newton, who was 32 of 45 for 335 yards and three touchdowns and one interception, connected with rookie D.J. Moore for a 51-yard score with 2:20 left, and the Panthers got the ball back quickly after forcing the Falcons to punt.

Newton got Carolina down to the 26-yard line with five seconds remaining, but a false start forced the Panthers back 5 yards and then Moore, surrounded by three defenders, couldn’t come up with a pass in the end zone.

The Falcons had 442 total net yards in the game to 439 for the Panthers.

After Ryan snuck in from a yard out early in the third quarter to put the Falcons up by two touchdowns, the Panthers cut the deficit back to seven points with an 80-yard drive that climaxed three-and-a-half minutes into the fourth on a 3-yard pass from Newton to wide receiver Torrey Smith.

It was soon back to a 14-point lead as the Falcons went 75 yards in seven plays, with Ryan going airborne at the goal line to score from 8 yards out on a third-down scramble.

Ryan had completed his ninth straight pass, an 8-yard TD strike to tight end Austin Hooper, to give the Falcons a 17-10 lead 22 seconds before halftime.

That 85-yard drive followed a 75-yard drive that was capped by a 7-yard pass from Ryan to rookie Calvin Ridley with 4:03 remaining in the second quarter.

Playing without inside linebacker Deion Jones and strong safety Keanu Neal because of injuries, the Falcons lost Neal’s replacement, Damontae Kazee, to an ejection for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Newton’s fourth-down scramble during the Panthers’ touchdown drive early in the second quarter.

Newton, sacked twice in the first half, connected with Jarius Wright from 5 yards out for the touchdown a few plays later, after first being evaluated for a concussion.

The teams alternated field goals in the first quarter, with Graham Gano connecting from 54 yards for Carolina and Matt Bryant from 44 yards for Atlanta.

The Panthers were without three starting offensive linemen, as well as tight end Greg Olsen — Newton’s long-time favorite target.

Running back Christian McCaffrey led the Panthers with 14 catches for 102 yards. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had five catches for 64 yards.

—Field Level Media

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