Wrap-up: Falcons 31, Panthers 17

Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons’ victory against the Carolina Panthers the Georgia Dome:

What it means: The Falcons improved to 3-3, but this was about much more than getting to .500. This was about keeping Atlanta’s season from spiraling out of control. There’s still a lot for the Falcons to improve on if they’re going to climb into serious playoff contention. But the Falcons at least bought themselves some time to get things straight. For Carolina, it was the same old story. The Panthers played a nice game and continued to show all sorts of promise for the future. But they’re still not playing quite well enough to win.

What I liked: With receiver Julio Jones out, the Falcons got back to basics on offense. It wasn’t anything fancy, but the Falcons did what they should have been doing all along. They got the ball into the hands of running back Michael Turner and he responded with 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns. There’s no question the Falcons need to pass the ball downfield more later in the season. But, now that they’ve got the running game going, they can reconfigure how they can incorporate the passing game to enhance their offense.

What I didn’t like: The throw by Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton that got picked off by Atlanta defensive tackle Corey Peters. It was a screen for DeAngelo Williams. It’s one thing for a rookie to get picked off on a downfield throw. But there’s no excuse for throwing an interception to Peters, who is far from the most athletic player in the league.

Play of the day: Near the end of the second quarter, Carolina was driving -- and very much in the game. But Newton, throwing for the end zone, had a ball tipped by safety William Moore. Cornerback Brent Grimes grabbed the ball for an interception and prevented the Panthers from scoring when it looked they were certain to come away with at least a field goal.

What’s next: The Panthers host the Redskins at Bank of America Stadium next Sunday. The Falcons travel to Detroit next Sunday.