ATLANTA—The Falcons surely heard all the outside noise during the week, lamenting a variety of apparent club failings:
**The offense's poor production in the red zone and during third down.
**The mounting injuries featuring star players (Keanu Neal, Deion Jones, Devonta Freeman).
**The tenuousness of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's job with the franchise, if Atlanta couldn't immediately dredge up memories of the 2016 Falcons offense (when no one, ahem, ever complained about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling).
**The sinking feeling that maybe Atlanta's promising Super Bowl-bound season, while hosting The Big Game itself in February, wasn't in the cards, considering the Falcons' daunting schedule.
**How falling into an 0-2 hole would be a death trap for the Falcons, especially with the Panthers reflexively holding a two-game lead in the NFC South.
These doubts (and others) might still exist with some Falcons fans, but at least this city isn't at a crisis point for Week 2, in lieu of Atlanta's 31-24 victory over Carolina.
Sunday's home victory over the Panthers certainly wasn't a lock early on, with the Falcons struggling to find their rhythm in the opening quarter.
Fortunately for Atlanta, the Carolina offense wasn't faring much bette, either, suggesting a low-scoring game between the NFC South powers.
But everything changed in the second quarter. First, the Panthers breezed ahead, the result of Cam Newton's touchdown strike to Jarius Wright.
Bowed, but hardly broken, the Falcons then erupted for three unanswered scores—one from rookie wideout Calvin Ridley (his first in the pros), tight end Austin Hooper (re-emerged after a Week 1 disappearance) and quarterback Matt Ryan, who deflty called his own number during a goal-line scenario in the third quarter.
Ryan (272 yards passing) would boldly call his number again in the final quarter, easily posting the most gravity-defying touchdown run of his decorated career.
In a supporting but glamorous role, tailback Tevin Coleman shrugged off the injury loss of Devonta Freeman and responded with a boffo afternoon, rummaging for 107 yards on only 16 carries.
With the victory, Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina are all tied at 1-1 for the season.
However, the three playoff participants from last year are all looking up in the standings, given Tampa Bay's red-hot, but equally baffling 2-0 start.