5 big talking points from the Panthers win at the Falcons in Week 8

(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) Carolina Panthers defense
(Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports) Carolina Panthers defense /
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Carolina Panthers
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) Shaq Thompson /

Carolina Panthers really missed Shaq Thompson

The Carolina Panthers got a key piece of its defense back with star Shaq Thompson suiting up for the first time since the Week 4 loss at the Dallas Cowboys.

The Panthers defense was given a boost pregame as the Atlanta Falcons surprisingly announced that star wide receiver Calvin Ridley would miss the game for a personal matter, with the player himself later revealing he was stepping away from football to focus on his mental health, which is absolutely the right decision as this should always come first.

The return of Thompson clearly boosted the Panthers’ defense as they held the Falcons to just 213 total yards as well as getting three sacks and forcing two turnovers.

The former Washington star had himself a stellar game, ending it with 10 total tackles and his second pick of the season. Thompson’s game-long battle with former Panther Mike Davis was an enjoyable watch for fans.

Although Frankie Luvu had performed admirably in the place of Thompson, it seems the presence of the former first-round selection helped this young defense.

Working with two of the best linebackers during the early part of his early career in Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly has helped Thompson grow into a key part of this defense.

Another key piece of the Panthers defense made his debut Sunday, with former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore guarding rookie phenom Kyle Pitts.

This was a real introduction to NFL football by Pitts. Through the last two weeks, the tight end had 16 receptions for 282 yards and a touchdown. With Gilmore shadowing him the former Florida Gator had just two receptions for 13 yards.

Gilmore topped his day off with the basically game-sealing interception, almost running Pitts’ route for him before jumping the pass from Matt Ryan.