Dome of Horrors

<P>Once again, the Panthers have left the Georgia Dome shaking their heads...wondering just what they have to do to win there. Sunday's 24-16 loss to the Falcons marks the sixth time in seven trips to Atlanta that the Panthers have come up on the short end.

Oddly, this was one of their overall better performances under the Georgia Dome roof. Often, they've looked nothing short of horrible there, actually looked respectable this time. It was sporatic mistakes that cost Carolina this time. Most of those defensively.

This game was a perfect example of what you are going to see when you commit to a youth movement on defense. The Panthers were called for numerous offsides penalties and left Falcon receivers wide open on numerous occasions. For instance, blown coverage allowed Tony Martin to pull in a 12-yard touchdown pass on the Falcons first possession. There was no Panther within 7 yards of Martin. Then, there was Jamal Anderson's touchdown. Backed up at their own 6, no one picked up Anderson coming out of the backfield. He sprinted wide open right down the middle of the field and Chris Chandler laid one on the money for a 94-yard touchdown pass.

But, the biggest stat of the game was third down conversions. The Falcons were 8-11! The Panthers weren't bad either converting 11-17, but when your defense can't get off the field, your offense isn't getting a chance to match.

Once again, Chris Weinke played a solid game at quarterback, but the Panthers biggest problem came in the red zone, as their failled to punch it in on three different occasions, having to settle for John Kasay field goals each time.

Then, there's the saga of running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka. Nearly benched after fumbling deep in Minnesota territory in the opener, he was surprisingly (at the last minute) held out of the starting line-up. Rookie Nick Goings got the call instead. Biakabutuka was playing, but at the end of the first half, put the ball on the turf again (following a 13 yard gain), and didn't play again. Veteran Richard Huntley, who was brought in to push Biakabutuka during camp, is finally healthy enough to play (he's had a hamstring injury), but was on the inactive list Sunday. Coach George Seifert has talked about Biakabutuka's tremendous upside as a reason he's stayed in the line-up, but it appeared on Sunday, as if Seifert has seen the downside as just too big.

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