Key Decision #1:
- The Falcons defense grounded the Panthers offense. Carolina QB Cam Newton had an erratic game (started the game 0-for-9 and then having seven straight completions –including a 3rd and 23 conversion and later a touchdown– to tie the game heading into the half.
- The Falcons defensive calls were solid throughout the game. Cam Newton finished 14-of- 34 passing for 180 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Tight end Greg Olsen had only one catch and the leading wide receiver only caught two passes. The running game was not much better as the running backs combined for 12 carries and 30 yards. Newton rushed 11 times for 59 yards and was the Panthers best option on the ground.
Key Decision #2: (CAR trail 7-0 / 4th and 1/ ATL 19 2:00 Q2)
- Rather than attempt a field goal to make it a 7-3 game, Carolina elected to try a fourth-down conversion attempt with Cam Newton running the ball. The attempt was successful and the drive continued. The Panthers scored a touchdown on the drive to make it a 7-7 game. This was the right call as they scored with about 50 seconds left.
Key Decision #3:
- The Panthers left enough time on the clock for the Falcons, without any timeouts to make it interesting at the end of the half. Atlanta moved the ball from their own 25-yard line to the Carolina 36-yard line. The Falcons were unable to attempt a field goal or a throw at the end zone as TE Austin Hooper was unable to get out of bounds on a 24-yard strike. QB Matt Ryan spiked the ball in an attempt to stop the clock, but it was just a too late. The Falcons and Panthers were tied 7-7 at the half.
Key Decision #4:
- The Atlanta offense struggled against Carolina as well. Specifically, the Falcons ground game was unable to get momentum in the first half and they had to move the ball through the air. They moved the ball better in the second half, yet they lack the same type of explosive play capability that they had a year ago at this time. Matt Ryan threw 45 times for 317 yards.
- RB Devonta Freeman scored the lone Falcons TD on the opening drive of the game. After that, Falcons kicker Matt Bryant hit five five goals.
- The Falcons had six drives of significance in the second half (seventh drive was a kneel-down), which they kicked field goals on.
- RB Christian McCaffrey was the leading pass catcher for the Panthers on the day with five catches. In his rookie season, he led the team with receptions (80), seventeen more than WR Devin Funchess, the second-leading receiver on the team. His role in the passing game increased, yet he was only the third-most rushing attempts behind RB Jonathan Stewart and Cam Newton.