Brian Burns - Carolina Panthers OLB
Brian Burns has come in for some criticism in recent weeks. The edge rusher has cut a frustrated figure thanks to extra attention from opposing protection schemes and terrible results. This was much more like it from the former first-round selection out of Florida State.
Burns found an extra sense of motivation against a division rival. He was constantly engaged. He was always around the action. He managed to create consistent pressure and even assist in coverage when Ejiro Evero demanded it.
This was a big step in the right direction for Burns. One that does his chances of getting a bumper new deal from the Carolina Panthers an untold amount of good when the time comes to resume negotiations.
In truth, this contract extension should have arrived long ago. The Panthers haven't done right by the pass-rusher despite turning down some lucrative trade offers. What this performance demonstrated is the need to keep Burns around throughout his prime years.
While Burns didn't fill up the stat sheet much, his impact on the game overall went way beyond numbers.
Burns was extremely disruptive. He kept his teammates motivated in the cold, wind, and rain. More importantly, he struck fear into the Atlanta Falcons offensive line throughout Carolina's second triumph in 14 regular season games.