The Atlanta Falcons are known for blowing leads. It has haunted the franchise since the 28-3 meltdown in Super Bowl LI. On Thursday night, it was a different story. We saw a different result.
Atlanta (2-6) held on to a 25-17 lead over the Carolina Panthers (3-5) to get its second win this season. In fact, the Falcons have now won two of their last three games, dating back to Week 6 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Statistically speaking, it was not a dominant performance from the offense.
Matt Ryan was efficient. He completed 70 percent of his 30 pass attempts for 281 yards, but he didn’t throw any touchdowns while tossing one interception. Ryan did add 27 yards and a touchdown on the ground, however.
A combination of Todd Gurley II and Brian Hill got the job done — sort of. But the yards per carry mark was well below average. The two combined for 29 carries for 101 yards, good for only 3.5 yards per rush.
The only standout performance on offense came from longtime wide receiver Julio Jones. The former No. 6 overall pick brought in seven of Ryan’s 21 completions, and he turned those into 137 yards. Once again, Jones went for 100-plus yards without scoring a touchdown.
Most games in NFL history with over 100 receiving yards and 0 TDs:
1. Julio Jones (29)
Nobody else has more than 22.
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) October 30, 2020
The Falcons defense kept Teddy Bridgewater and the rest of Carolina’s offense in check for the most part. The Panthers only converted two of their 10 third down attempts, and the defense allowed only 304 total yards.
Statistics themselves can only tell so much of the story, however.
Thursday night was about an Atlanta team that has struggled. Blown leads, unnecessary mistakes and overall incompetent play has plagued this group. But they found a way to overcome that mental block to keep the Panthers out of the end zone in the fourth quarter.
The importance of that victory cannot be overstated. At times, it seemed like the team was going to collapse. Late in the game, Bridgewater led Carolina on a nine-play, 65-yard drive. But a timely interception by cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson brought a collective sigh from Atlanta with it.
Even the team’s official Twitter account is sitting around waiting for the collapse:
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) October 30, 2020
But in the wise words of former Atlanta Hawks center Dikembe Mutombo, “not today.”
We will continue talking about Gurley’s late-game decision-making this week, however. The former first-round pick ran out of bounds with just over three minutes left in the game, even though the Falcons were trying to eat clock. Stopping the clock unnecessarily gave Carolina more time left for its final drive.
Gurley and Falcons fans everywhere owe Wreh-Wilson and his game-saving interception a thank you.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.