Cam Newton's MVP resume just keeps getting better and better each week and this one was much of the same for the Panthers’ quarterback. Newton flat out demolished the Falcons’ defense that had no answers for anything the Carolina offense threw at them. Newton led the offense to touchdowns on the first three drives for the team and in just under three quarters of play he threw for 265-yards and three scores on 15 of 21 passes. Newton made great throw after great throw and was instrumental in leading his team. And in relief, Derek Anderson had some nice moments as well most notably late in the first half when he connected with Philly Brown when he came in for Newton on one play. Newton though, continues to excel and should be the clear frontrunner for MVP.
In a 38-0 blowout you can rest assured that Jonathan Stewart played his part and he did so early and often in this one. Stewart started off the day with a huge gain to set up the Panthers’ first score and from there delivered on a number of hard runs gaining 75-yards and a score on just 10 carries as he sat out the entire second half. Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert got a majority of the second half carries and rushed for 34 and 17-yards respectively, and Whittaker threw in a touchdown run of his own. Stewart snapped his streak of games with 20+ carries but the team rushing yardage streak continued and this backfield looked great all day long.
Ted Ginn Jr. Enough Said. One week after dropping two would-be touchdowns, Ginn recovered and scored on both of his catches on the day and in stellar fashion. The first score went for 74-yards with a nice fingertip catch from the veteran speedster and the second was on a 46-yard crossing route with a linebacker trailing; a matchup he’ll win every time. Other receivers performed admirably as well as Philly Brown made a couple solid grabs in key situations ending with three catches for 59-yards and Devin Funchess did the same catching three passes of his own for 25. Ginn’s day led the group though and he now has eight touchdowns on the year and four in just the last two weeks.
What looked to be a big day coming from Greg Olsen was cut short by a scary situation for the veteran tight end who ended up going to the locker room after landing awkwardly on his knee. Luckily for the Panthers though he checked out fine and sat out the second half as precaution but still managed a solid stat line catching three passes for 52-yards. In his absence, backup Ed Dickson played his part and scored on a nice diving grab on his lone target for the day.
The offensive line continued its strong play, albeit against a less than stellar pass rush from the Falcons. They provided Newton with more than adequate time in the pocket to execute on his variety of impressive throws and paved the way for Stewart and the ground game all day. They allowed two sacks on the day but at least one could be blamed on Newton not getting rid of the ball and did commit a few penalties, but overall still a great game for this group who got to see the second unit get some game reps as well.
After a week of ineffectiveness, this group showed up in a big way on Sunday wreaking havoc and giving Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense trouble throughout this contest. The front line notched three and a half of the team’s five total sacks with Kawann Short leading the way with a tremendous effort up the middle logging two sacks to give him nine on the year and also forced fumbles on each of his two sacks. Kyle Love recorded another sack late in the game and Mario Addison got a half sack as well. The team had 11 quarterback hits and provided constant pressure not allowing Ryan or Devonta Freeman to get into any sort of rhythm.
The linebackers certainly made their usual mark in this one with Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and A.J. Klein all providing the defense with big play after big play. Kuechly had five total tackles and picked off a pass his fourth pass of the season and Davis led the group with seven tackles including a big half sack and providing pressure on the blitz all day. And Klein put in his fair share of work as well with five tackles, a sack and a forced fumble on Freeman. This group played a large part in disrupting the Falcons’ offense and like the defensive line helped hold the Atlanta rushing attack to just 54-yards.
The Panthers’ defensive backfield made sure they wouldn’t have a repeat of last week’s debacle and stepped up big in Carolina’s shutout win. They held Ryan to just 224-yards through the air and forced an interception from his backup Sean Renfree. Kurt Coleman continued his tremendous season leading the team in tackles with nine and as the recipient of the Renfree pick, nabbed his seventh of the season, a league high. Cortland Finnegan showed more promise in his second game with the team and Josh Norman won the battle with Julio Jones, not giving the talented wideout much of anything. A big negative came from this matchup though when talented young cornerback Bene Benwikere broke his leg in meaningless garbage time and will likely be lost for the season; a huge hit for an already depleted secondary.
Graham Gano connected on all six of his kicks in this one (one field goal, five extra points) and Brad Nortman booted a booming 65-yard punt early on. Falcon’s return man Devin Hester was held to just 10-total yards on punt returns which is always a plus with the punt coverage unit doing a solid job.