ATLANTA — The disappointing start to the 2020 NFL season continued for the Atlanta Falcons as they failed to get in the win column in their first NFC South Division matchup in a 23-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
Falcons head coach Dan Quinn spoke about the loss after the game saying, “Certainly a tough division loss, but at the end of the day, players and coaches, you’ve got to be able to leave your mark on the game. That’s the big tackle, the big hit that caused the fumble, the big score, the big kick. So that’s what we’ve got to be able to do. I told them that. It’s a tough division loss, for sure, but more than anything we have to be able to leave our mark on the win.”
The game started well for Atlanta, who started on defense and stalling the Carolina drive shortly after crossing midfield to force a punt, where the Falcons offense would get to work early.
Atlanta would take a 10 play, 92-yard drive to the endzone to grab an early lead on a 35-yard Todd Gurley rushing touchdown. The former University of Georgia running back had his best game in a Falcons uniform, rushing 14 times for 121-yards and the long touchdown. This was Gurley’s first 100-yard rushing performance since 2018 when he was with the Los Angeles Rams and is a great sign for the veteran back as he tries to rebuild his value before he goes to free agency this offseason.
After hitting field goals on back-to-back possessions to make it a one-point game, the Panthers would strike on a 57-yard DJ Moore, who took a short pass from Teddy Bridgewater and run the rest of the way to the endzone to take a 13-7 lead. The Falcons defense got burned allowing the Carolina playmakers to operate in space throughout the game.
Atlanta would take over possession just before the two-minute warning but would fail to put enough of a drive together to get to halftime, and Carolina would use their timeouts and get the ball back with 1:42 to play.
The Panthers would march the ball down the field and score, capping the drive off with a three-yard pass from Bridgewater to running back Mike Davis to take a 20-7 lead to the locker room.
In the second half, the Falcons looked to grab momentum, getting two field goals from kicker Younghoe Koo to bring them within one possession, and the Falcons would have their chance to tie the game early in the fourth quarter.
Down to the five-yard line, Matt Ryan would have his pass intercepted on a forced throw into tight coverage. The play ended the hopes of an Atlanta comeback, as the Panthers would drive all the way down the field and make it a two-possession game again with a late field goal.
It was another difficult loss for the Falcons this season, who drop to 0-5 for the first time since 1997.
After the game, it was reported by Jeff Schultz of The Athletic that Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank has made the decision to fire head coach Dan Quinn with an announcement to come either Monday or Tuesday. Coach Quinn led the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 2017, but since 2018 was 14-23, and it was determined by Arthur Blank that it was time for a change in the organization.
If an announcement is made, the Atlanta season will continue with an interim coach and the Falcons will get ready to travel up to Minnesota to take on the Vikings next Sunday.