Report Card: Hail to the newly minted NFC South champs

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTE, NC – DECEMBER 24: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball against the Carolina Panthers in the 3rd quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

A new NFC South champion was born on Saturday in Charlotte.

There was no dabbing. No dancing on the sidelines. No selfies with Santa Claus.

The Falcons came out and methodically pressed the Panthers’ heads to the turf and then stomped them out with a 55-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter.

The news only got better as they earned the NFC South title with a Tampa Bay loss and picked up a shot at the No. 2 seed and a possible bye with Seattle’s loss.

Here are the grades from the Falcons’ 33-16 victory over the Panthers:

Game balls: Running back Tevin Coleman, Tight ends Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialevea.

Quarterbacks, A-plus. Matt Ryan completed 27 of 33 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 121.8. His 26-yard touchdown pass to Perkins set the new franchise mark for most touchdown passes in a season. It was his 33rd touchdown pass of the season breaking his old mark of 32 set in 2012.

Running backs, A-plus. Coleman, who had 90 yards rushing on nine carries and caught three passes for 45 yards, and Freeman, who had 53 yards rushing on 13 carries and caught eight passes for 35 yards, combined for 223 total yards. It was the fourth time this season  the two combined for more than 200 yards from scrimmage. Coleman’s 55-yard touchdown run was the tandem’s 18th score of the season, the most of any running back tandem in the league.



Wide receivers/tight ends, A-plus. Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who played 39 of 62 offensive snaps (62 percent), made his return after missing the past two games with a sprained toe. He caught a pass on the first play of the game but only had two catches for 21 yards at halftime as Ryan moved the ball around to a season-high 10 different receivers by the half. On the Falcons’ first possession of the third quarter, Jones caught passes for 22 yards and 17 yards to help push a 10-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Bryant to make it 23-6 with 3:39 left in the third quarter. Jones finished with four catches for 60 yards. The Falcons have been hit hard at the tight end position by rash of injuries. Jacob Tamme was lost for the season with shoulder injury and Austin Hooper missed this game with a knee injury. Perkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent from Washington, caught his first career touchdown pass on the opening drive. Perjins ran a nice route and caught the ball between cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Thomas Davis for the score. Tialevea, who has been on the practice squad, was activated to the 53-man roster on Thursday. He caught a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Tight end Levine Toilolo also had a catch for 10 yards.

Offensive line, B-minus. The offensive line gave up four sacks and nine quarterback hits. That’s too many. They made up for most of that by helping to power the rushing attack, which averaged 6.3 yards per carry as the Falcons rushed for 152 yards on 25 carries. Left guard Andy Levitre left the game with a hip injury and was replaced by Ben Garland. Levitre played 42 of 63 offensive snaps (67 percent). Garland played 21 snaps.

Defensive line, A.  The defensive line sold out to stop the run and Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart. They contested their blocks and didn’t give up any ground. That allowed the linebackers, especially Deion Jones, to clean up in the run game. The defensive line also had two sacks and five quarterbacks hits. Ra’Shede Hageman has a sack for the second week in a row and Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw split a sack. Because of the work of the defensive line, the Falcons held the dangerous Stewart to 50 yards on 11 carries.

Linebackers, A: Jones led the team with 13 tackles and nearly had an interception. Paul Worrilow had four tackles and Vic Beasley had two tackles.

Defensive backs, A. The Falcons did an excellent job of taking away Cam Newton’s first-read and made him hold the ball. He was also erratic and should have had more than two interceptions. Cornerback Brian Poole and Jalen Collins both had interceptions in the first half. Collins was beaten by Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 26-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the third quarter to pull the Panthers within 23-13. Safety Keanu Neal, the team’s leading tackler, left the game with an ankle injury. He returned but appeared to be gimpy after a few tackles. The Falcons broke up eight passes.



Special teams, B.  Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday, made field-goal attempts from 51 and 48 yards, but had a 33-yard attempt blocked right before the half by Carolina’s Vernon Butler. Bryant added a 29-yard field in the third quarter and a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter for the final score. The kickoff coverage team gave up a 47-yard return to Fozzy Whitaker. He averaged 42 yards on two returns. Matt Bosher had six touchbacks on kickoffs.

Coaching, A-minus. The Falcons were ready to play. But the stalls in the red-zone kept them from receiving an A-plus. In the playoffs, 33 percent in the red zone is sub-standard. Also, the coverage units must step up their game in the regular-season finale heading into the playoffs.

NEXT UP: The Falcons (10-5) host the New Orleans Saints (7-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at in the regular-season finale at the Georgia Dome.



GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons win over the Panthers

NFL playoffs: Falcons clinch NFC South title

Third-and-21, no problem for Coleman

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Panthers

GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the 49ers

What Matt Ryan had to say about the win over the 49ers

PHOTOS: Falcons win over the 49ers

GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14

REPORT CARD: Falcons handled their business against woeful Rams

GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Chiefs

Falcons still control their playoff destiny

PHOTOS: Falcons have a bad day at the office

Matt Ryan tormented by Berry’s big interceptions

Beasley becomes a double-digit sacker

GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Cardinals

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons keep getting better as they go

Julio Jones gets calls this time

Taylor Gabriel continues scoring streak in win over Cardinals

Coleman scores TD in return from injury

Falcons’ offensive line ‘stepped up to the task’

GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Eagles

Ryan, offense slowed down to a crawl

Perkins stalls key drive with costly penalty

Defense gets blown of the line of scrimmage

Keanu Neal can expect fine but Falcons’ biggest issue is injuries (Trufant and Tamme)

Falcons go into bye week wrong way — beat up by Eagles

What Dan Quinn had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What Matt Ryan had to say after the loss to the Eagles

What the Falcons had to say after the loss to the Eagles

PHOTOS: Falcons fall to the Eagles

GAME NINE: Falcons 43, Buccaneers 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ rout of the Bucs

GAME EIGHT: Falcons 33, Packers 32
 

GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Chargers

Dan Quinn’s gamble with house-money backfires

6 penalties ‘unacceptable’ for Falcons offensive line

Philip Rivers confounds Falcons with short passes: ‘He picked us apart’

Matt Ryan’s late-game interception leads to overtime loss

PHOTOS: Chargers rally to beat Falcons

GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons loss to the Seahawks

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons didn’t win, but they made one guy believe (me)

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons got jobbed but did themselves proud

Matt Ryan’s turnovers were costly

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Seattle slows down Falcons’ running backs Freeman, Coleman

Ryan Schraeder, offensive line rebounds in second half

Julio Jones: ‘It was just a missed call’

What the Falcons had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 26-24 loss to Seattle

Richard Sherman non-commital on pass interference non-call

PHOTOS: Falcons at Seahawks in Seattle

GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16

5 things we learned from the Falcons upset of Super Bowl champs

MARK BRADLEY: The Falcons rock a rookie in the Rockies

What Dan Quinn have to say after the win over Denver

Coleman amassed 163 yards to power the offense

Vic Beasley has breakout game with 3.5 sacks

Kemal Ishmael moved to linebacker, led team in tackles

What the Falcons had to say after the win over the Broncos

Photos: Falcons battle the Broncos

GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-33 win over the Panthers

Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33

Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons

Falcons’ rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen

What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers

Alford battled; Collins to return

Early view in NFC South isn’t what most expected; Falcons on top

GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 45-32 win over the Saints

Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game

REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints

What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints

Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons

Falcons’ Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home

AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?

GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Raiders

Trufant’s heads-up play saves the day

Tight ends help to power offense

Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013

Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less

JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win

What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders

What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders

GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24

5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Bucs

No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush

Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury

Falcons have a case of the “no-huddle” blues

REPORT CARD: Falcons can’t ‘gift’ opponents 17 points

FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action

AJC’S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?

Hageman charged is domestic violence case

 



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