Even without Devonta Freeman, the Falcons were still able to run. And even with Steve Sarkisian still ironing out some kinks, the Falcons were able to score in the red zone.
The result was an impressive 31-24 win over the Panthers, which leaves both teams 1-1.
Tevin Coleman did more than his fair share in Freeman’s absence because of a knee injury, running 16 times for 107 yards. It was the first time the Panthers had allowed an individual 100-yard rusher since Dec. 4, 2016 against the Seahawks (Thomas Rawls). But the defensive breakdowns for the Panthers were unusual after their looked so good last week against the Cowboys, limiting Ezekiel Elliott to 69 yards and sacking Dak Prescott six times.
There wasn’t the same kind of pressure on Matt Ryan (23-of-28 for 272 yards, with two touchdowns and an arm-punt interception), as the Falcons offense looked much more polished than in their loss in the opener to the Eagles.
Ryan also ran for two touchdowns, including an 8-yard scramble-and-dive in the fourth quarter, which might not have been quite like a John Elway helicopter but was at least like a slow-moving roadside carnival attraction.
It didn’t help that the Panthers are playing without suspended linebacker Thomas Davis, but they also suffered a pair of injuries in the secondary. Starting cornerback Donte Jackson (hamstring) and safety DaNorris Searcy (concussion) were unable to finish the game.
But the biggest culprit was their lack of reliable targets downfield. In the absence of injured tight end Greg Olsen, the Panthers struggled all day in the passing game, and the final play dropping to the ground around a double-covered D.J. Moore was a metaphor.