I’ll be back shortly with my column off of the Falcons’ game against Carolina today. Until then here are my three short takes on the game.
1. Defensive front dominated: The Falcons saw Carolina score on its first five possessions of the game (taking a 23-0 lead) and were just fortunate that the Panthers converted only two of those drives into touchdowns. Cam Newton was efficient and the Panthers ran the ball effectively. But the biggest reason for the early success was that the Falcons’ defensive front got dominated by Carolina’s offensive line. It didn’t help that defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux left in the second quarter with what was announced as a ribs injury. But it wasn’t all about Babineaux. This game belonged to the Panthers’ line, as well as … (see No. 2).
2. Cam Newton shows his upside: For all the criticism from “anonymous players” and “unnamed sources” about his maturity issues, Newton’s physical talents were on full display. He completed his first eight pass attempts. He threw for 178 yards in the first half on 17-of-25 passing. He had a 21-yard scramble in which he spun the Falcons’ Corey Peters in a 360 and a 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It’s like he was back at Auburn again. For the game, Newton finished with 235 yards passing and two touchdowns and he rushed for another 118 yards and a touchdown. So that should quiet everybody for a while.
3. No running game… again: It’s not the only reason they lost the game. But the Falcons again failed to establish a running game, which is an increasingly bad sign in the first week of December. Jacquizz Rodgers (4 for 21) and Michael Turner (7 for 14) combined for only 35 yards rushing. When that happens, it allows opposing defensive linemen to ignore defending the run and enables them to tee off on the quarterback. Matt was sacked only twice but often pressured.
By Jeff Schultz