The Panthers defensive line seems to be getting a little better each and every week. Against Atlanta, the front four looked to control the line of scrimmage and helped keep the run game in check. More importantly they were able to get steady pressure on Matt Ryan.
Defensive ends Mario Addison and Charles Johnson each registered one sack with both coming at key times. Addison’s sack came in the first half and stalled the Falcons drive, forcing them to kick a field goal. Johnson’s sack came in the fourth quarter and pushed the Falcons back into a 3rd and 15, which they couldn’t covert.
There aren’t enough good things that can be said about Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, as both linebackers are the heart and soul of this team. When the team needed a big play, it seemed like both would find a way to make it.
Davis may have had the play of the game when he forced the fumble from his hit on Devin Hester, which Kuechly recovered. This play came right after the scuffle that took place in the game and the Panthers needed a spark. That turnover seemed to do just that as Carolina looked to be playing with much more passion than they had earlier in the game.
The two linebackers combined for 21 tackles, 2 passes defended, one QB hit, one fumble forced and one fumble recovery.
The Panthers secondary has been their Achilles heel for most of the season. They have had trouble stopping opposing quarterbacks from Aaron Rodgers to Mark Sanchez. This group looked much better against Atlanta, which is surprising considering the caliber of wide receivers they were going up against.
The team was able to hold Matt Ryan to 268 yards, which doesn’t sound great but it did take 45 pass attempts to reach that mark. They averaged six yards per attempt, which is well below their season average of 7.8. This is the type of performance they can build on heading into the bye week.
It was a tough day for Graham Gano who finished the day making only one of his three field goal attempts. The two misses came from 46 yards and 63 yards out, both in the final minutes of the game, with the last one being blocked as time expired.
The one positive that can be taken from this game is the fact that the Panthers did an excellent job of containing Devin Hester, who is one of the best returners in the history of the NFL. Brad Nortman had six punts, with none returned and the only kick return Hester had went for 19 yards.