By Michael Brennan
With the Carolina Panthers (4-9) you never know what you’re going to get. All of the pleasantries exchanged between the Panthers and NFC South rival, the Atlanta Falcons (11-2), helped to set the stage for a big time win at Bank of America Stadium for Carolina, 30-20.
The success for Carolina began even before the first whistle when the Panthers won their first coin toss of the entire season. Cam Newton and the Panthers received the ball first and rendered the Falcons useless for the first half of play; allowing Atlanta only 13 offensive plays throughout. The Carolina offense converted 60% of their 3rd downs (9-15) which allowed them to keep the Atlanta offense off of the field.
The star of the show, however, was Cam Newton. Newton played another flawless game and continued to rebuild his superior image. In the last four games, Newton has accounted for 1,363 total yards and 11 total touchdowns, but this game in particular, Newton strutted his stuff.
The second-year quarterback completed 23 of his 35 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns. Newton had a career-long 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, a big part of his 116 total yards on the ground – also a career best.
Newton’s 72-yard touchdown run made him the first quarterback in Panther’s history to ever run for over 100 yards in a single game. Newton kept the ball on a zone-read option to DeAngelo Williams and used his speed to follow the sideline behind a block from veteran receiver, Steve Smith.
Williams got the start in place of injured teammate, Jonathon Stewart, and made the most of his opportunity. Williams took a screen-pass from Newton, 53 yards for a touchdown and also added 56 yards on the ground to contribute to the big win.
As for the Falcons, Matt Ryan had a much better performance than he has in the past few weeks. Ryan threw for 342 yards, completing 34 of his 49 passes for two touchdowns and one interception. Roddy White had another good game to contribute to his already impressive season. White caught 9 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown but was unable to help the Falcons prevail.
Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers had a miserable day as far as a running game; and getting behind early didn’t help their opportunities to better it. Combined, both backs only earned 35 yards on the ground on only 11 carries.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly has been unbelievable in his first professional season. He had a team-high 16 total tackles, giving him 114 on the season and making him the fourth best tackler in the NFL. There were some newer faces in the defensive huddle that stepped up and helped contribute to a big win for Carolina. Safety D.J. Campbell compiled 3 tackles and was able to prevent the big play from Ryan and White.
The Panthers may not have much to play for the rest of this season besides salvaging their head coach’s job. Rob Rivera will need to finish this season with Carolina, trending up. The Panthers take their momentum on the road next week to San Diego.