Tale Of The Tape: Atlanta Falcons At Carolina Panthers
- QuarterbackThe Falcons know that when the ball is in Matt Ryan’s hands, he is going to throw it accurately as long as he gets half-decent protection from the offensive line. That wasn’t the case in the Week Eight loss to the Cardinals, when the Flacons suffered another disappointing defeat and Ryan continued to turn the ball over with alarming frequency.Suddenly, the Panthers are playing with confidence and maturity. It’s too early to do a complete “buy” on Cam Newton, but he has played much better in recent weeks and nobody is happier about it than head coach Ron Rivera. Newton is buying time with his athleticism and escapability, but he is looking to throw the ball first and take advantage of his athletic receivers.
- OffenseThe Falcons may get wide receiver Roddy White back for this game, and if the star wide receiver is healthy, he would be a welcome addition to this offense. Harry Douglas has shown he can get open and make the occasional big play, while veteran tight end Tony Gonzalez still plays a valuable role on third downs. Running back Jacquizz Rodgers has some escapability.The Panthers have the kind of talent on offense that can allow them to be a consistent big-play team. DeAngelo Williams can break the long one when he can get to the second level. Veteran Steve Smith should never be overlooked. While he lacks size, he plays a big man’s game and will make the tough catch and then run over the tackler. Greg Olsen is a solid third-down weapon.
- DefenseThe Falcons are an ordinary defensive team who try to make up for in quickness what they lack in size and strength. That’s been a familiar story in Atlanta for years. Safety William Moore is the team’s most consistent tackler and he leads the team in stops and is also a solid pass defender. Former New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora is starting to heat up as a pass rusher.The Panthers have a tough, physical defense that tries to intimidate the opposition. Carolina ranks third in overall defense and they are led by middle linebacker Luke Kuechly with 56 tackles and five passes defensed. Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have combined for 11.0 sacks and have the speed to come around the corner and wreak havoc.
- Special TeamsThe Falcons are doing a decent job in punt and kickoff coverage, but they are waiting for Jacquizz Rodgers and Douglas to give them a bit of a lift in their own return game. Matt Bosher is a solid directional punter who has had just one touchback thus far.The Panthers would like to see explosive Ted Ginn catch his punts with a bit more confidence and hit a big return with his speed. Placekicker Graham Gano has been on target all season and has not missed any of his 10 FG attempts. Brad Nortman has dropped 13 of his 25 punts inside the opponents’ 20.
The Panthers have reeled off three straight wins since laying an egg against the Arizona Cardinals in Week Five. This is a huge game for them as they appear to have the physical edge over an injured Atlanta team and they can’t afford a letdown. -Steve Silverman, CBS Local Sports contributor