Not to be flippant about a now 5-3 team, but this Panthers win looked a lot like the four previous ones. They got out to a lead, held and extended it, and won the game with a stifling defense and a strong running game, but there were a few notable differences.
First, running back Jonathan Stewart returned to the field for the first time this season and was actually the most productive back with 43 rushing yards on 9 carries. DeAngelo Williams added 42 yards on 13 carries.
Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton each had a TD run and had a couple dozen yards each, so the running attack going forward looks near-impossible to game-plan for if you’re the defensive coordinator facing off against them in coming weeks.
Brandon LaFell led Carolina’s receivers with 6 catches for 74 yards, but fumbled after 30-yard reception. Thankfully, he got the ball back, but it seems like every week he has a bonehead play whether it’s a key drop or fumble, or something. It’s good to see him producing more reliably but he still has a ways to go.
Cam had an off week, going 23-for-37 for 249 yards, a TD, and two picks. It’s the first game in the last four that Newton has thrown an interception, but the defense and running game held up very nicely for him. As I watched the game, he seemed a little too tense and threw a lot of passes harder than he should have. Even TV analyst Brian Billick saw that and he probably doesn’t watch Cam in particular more than I or most fans do.
In any case, Falcons QB Matt Ryan had to be more tense. He had a nice 21-for-27 day with 219 yards and a TD pass but the ball-hawking Carolina defense intercepted him three times, including a pick-six by veteran cornerback Drayton Florence to
Matty ice the game.
Atlanta’s struggles continue as the Panthers’ defense asserted itself once again and during the first half of the season has put the rest of the NFL on notice that they are not to be taken lightly. The gap between them and the Chiefs narrowed slightly in scoring defense as Kansas City gave up 13 to Buffalo in yet another win for the crew from Arrowhead.
With a defense this good and a running game this solid, Cam won’t have to be perfect for them to beat half the teams in the NFL.
With the San Francisco 49′ers looming on the slate next week, Cam better return to the form of his previous three games where he tossed 8 TD passes without an interception.
Let’s hope that trend continues after a hiccup today.
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