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Five things to watch in Falcons-Panthers game


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Getting after Jake Delhomme: The Panthers’ quarterback has thrown nine interceptions and committed two fumbles over his past two games, a season-opening lost to Philadelphia and a divisional-round playoff defeat against Arizona.

He was pulled from last week’s game as the Panthers used three quarterbacks. To fortify the position they signed A.J. Feeley on Tuesday.

Lost in the turnover shuffle, was the fact that the Eagles got five sacks. The Falcons are coming off a four-sack game.

The Panthers want to keep Delhomme out of obvious passing situations.

• Can the “Burn Unit” spring the Burner: Falcons running back Michael “The Burner” Turner was held to 65 yards on 22 carries against Miami.

Last season, the Panthers held Turner to 56 yards on 18 carries in the first meeting in Charlotte on Sept. 28. In the second game, a 45-28 win, Turner ran wild behind the “Burn Unit” (the offensive line). He had 24 carries for 117 yards and four touchdowns.

The Panthers have a new defensive coordinator in Ron Meeks, who spent the past seven seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

“We do notice some subtle differences,” Turner said. “I’m sure they will expand more as the weeks go on. We are expecting to see some different things that we didn’t see on tape.”

Turner believes a key will be controlling defensive end Julius Peppers.

• Unleashing the special teams: The Falcons set the 16-game record for punt-return yards allowed (43) last season, but it was the kickoff-coverage unit that got off to a good start against the Dolphins.

With the combination of Eric Weems and Kroy Biermann playing off each other, the Dolphins were forced to start drives after kickoffs at the 14-, 18-, 14- and 24-yard lines.

Carolina’s Mike Goodson averaged 24 yards on five returns against the Eagles, including a long of 33 yards. He also had a fumble in the game.

However, the Falcons will not be able to sustain another seven-point toss-away in the kicking game. Jason Elam uncharacteristically missed two fields and an extra point against Miami. He was listed on the injury report with a hamstring injury.

• Can Ryan get on track against the Panthers: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan did not have any touchdown passes against the Panthers last season.

He had a 60.8 passing rating in the first game and 94.5 in the second game, while combining to complete 38 of 68 passes for 417 yards and no interceptions.

It’s hard to tell much about the Panthers defense from the Philadelphia game. They were put in bad positions with the seven turnovers.

However, the Eagles did complete 17 of 29 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Their leading receiver was tight end Brent Celek, with six catches.

• Deep passing attack: The Falcons tried to go downfield a couple of times against Miami, but their deep passing attack was not in synch.

A deep ball to Roddy White was in a bad spot. They had three gains of more than 20 yards and two of them were short passes — one to Tony Gonzalez for a 20-yard touchdown and one a 21-yard gain by fullback Ovie Mughelli.

The Falcons will have to show they can hit the long ball at some point or they can expect to continue seeing eight-man fronts.

Roddy White has 36 receptions of 25 yards or more.

“We want to create explosive plays,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “When you have an explosive play it usually leads to points on that drive.”

Three key matchups

• Falcons MLB Curtis Lofton vs. Carolina RBs DeAngelo Williams/Jonathan Stewart: The coaches credited Lofton with 13 tackles against Miami. He also played a key role in two turnovers. He forced a fumble and held up a tight end long enough for Mike Peterson to come in with a bone-jarring hit. It’s no secret that the Panthers are going to try to run the ball because of their struggles at the quarterback position. Williams is quietly turning into one of the top backs in the league. He was third behind Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson and Michael Turner in rushing last season with a franchise-record 1,515 yards. His 24 touchdowns were also a franchise record. Stewart has been slowed by a heel injury. He had 11 carries for 35 yards (2.9 per carry) after averaging a team-record 4.8 yards per carry last season as a rookie.

• Falcons CBs Brent Grimes, Brian Williams and Chris Houston vs. Panthers WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Steve Smith: Last season, Muhammad took Grimes to school in the art of route-running. In the early-season matchup, Muhammad finished with eight catches for 147 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown. Muhammad, 36, might have lost a step or two, but he showed that he still knew how to get open. Grimes had 11 tackles and he was clearly targeted by the Panthers. Grimes no longer starts, but in the nickel package he comes in and plays outside. The Panthers will try to find Muhammad, who had four catches for 41 yards last week. While Grimes was having a tough day, Houston didn’t fair much better against Smith, who had 96 yards receiving, including a 56-yard touchdown catch.

• Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez vs. Panthers SS Chris Harris or Quinton Teal: Harris didn’t play last week and was replaced in the starting lineup by Teal, a third-year player out of Coastal Carolina. It’s fairly certain that he hasn’t seen a player like Gonzalez yet. He’ll likely get help as the Panthers will elect to let Chris Gamble attempt to defend wide receiver Roddy White. “Harris is still listed on their injury report,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “So we are not really sure who we are going to see in terms of the game on Sunday, but that group is a pretty experienced as a whole.”

The Falcons will win if ...

• They unleash the swarm: Running back DeAngelo Williams will attempt to carry the offense. “The guy knows what he’s doing back there,” defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux said.” He finds a hole, picks it and goes. He’s a strong back. It’s going to take more than one of us to get him down. We just have to swarm this guy.”

• They make some big plays: The Falcons methodically slice and diced Miami’s defense last week. A big play in either the run or passing game could decide this one.

• Get Delhomme down: Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme (right) has had some good days against the Falcons. They don’t need him to have a flashback on the day they are wearing their 1966 “throwback” uniforms.

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• Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez vs. Panthers SS Chris Harris or Quinton Teal: Harris didn’t play last week and was replaced in the starting lineup by Teal, a third-year player out of Coastal Carolina. It’s fairly certain that he hasn’t seen a player like Gonzalez yet. He’ll likely get help as the Panthers will elect to let Chris Gamble attempt to defend wide receiver Roddy White. “Harris is still listed on their injury report,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “So we are not really sure who we are going to see in terms of the game on Sunday, but that group is a pretty experienced as a whole.”

The Falcons will win if ...

roddy gonzo or both should go off tomorrow. harris is probowl caliber safety and i believe he's out. that leaves carolina with teal and godfrey at safety. godfrey's a 2nd year player (3rd round pick i think) and teal is UDFA out of coastal carolina in his 3rd year. roddy and gonzo both demand doubles so if they double tony they're going to leave roddy 1 on 1 with gamble (and roddy's had his way with gamble in the past) and if they double roddy tony gets one of the young safeties. ^_^

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roddy gonzo or both should go off tomorrow. harris is probowl caliber safety and i believe he's out. that leaves carolina with teal and godfrey at safety. godfrey's a 2nd year player (3rd round pick i think) and teal is UDFA out of coastal carolina in his 3rd year. roddy and gonzo both demand doubles so if they double tony they're going to leave roddy 1 on 1 with gamble (and roddy's had his way with gamble in the past) and if they double roddy tony gets one of the young safeties. ^_^

yeah, that situation might be very sweet for us boss.......... ;)

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I don't think it's going to be an easy day for the Falcons offense tomorrow, but I think the defense is going to do well. I see this game going about like last week's did, but hopefully Matt will hit some of the open long passes.

I don't think it's going to be an easy day necessarily but I do think our offense will be more in sync than it was against the Dolphins. The interior of that Panther defensive line is kind of shaky so Turner should get some good yardage tomorrow...(I think the Dolphins front 7 is better than the Panties..........) Also, as was stated earlier in this thread Harris looks like he's out for the Panties so we might get some stuff up top too.

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I'm fairly certain Harris will go tomorrow. He was a game-time decision last week, even warming up. He decided then that he couldn't go. The week off should have given him enough time to heal. I'm still kind of worried about Gonzo, but isn't the Tampa 2 (Meeks ran it in Indy) supposed to eliminate the seam route? Anyway, Ryan's never been great against us, I'm far from terrified.

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I'm fairly certain Harris will go tomorrow. He was a game-time decision last week, even warming up. He decided then that he couldn't go. The week off should have given him enough time to heal. I'm still kind of worried about Gonzo, but isn't the Tampa 2 (Meeks ran it in Indy) supposed to eliminate the seam route? Anyway, Ryan's never been great against us, I'm far from terrified.

Harris didn't practice during the week and I see no reason for him to be in the game. Injury report shows that DNP - Doubtful...

DT Nick Hayden might play since he was LP - Questionable... if Hayden isn't there.. I'm not sure who's going to DT for Panthers.. So DL is little thin...

This game should be GOOD.. hopefully Falcons come out with a WIN as they say.. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

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I'm fairly certain Harris will go tomorrow. He was a game-time decision last week, even warming up. He decided then that he couldn't go. The week off should have given him enough time to heal. I'm still kind of worried about Gonzo, but isn't the Tampa 2 (Meeks ran it in Indy) supposed to eliminate the seam route? Anyway, Ryan's never been great against us, I'm far from terrified.

"Never been great against us" Dude he was a rookie and now he's a second year QB! You act like this is his 4th year! :lol:

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I don't think it's going to be an easy day necessarily but I do think our offense will be more in sync than it was against the Dolphins. The interior of that Panther defensive line is kind of shaky so Turner should get some good yardage tomorrow...(I think the Dolphins front 7 is better than the Panties..........) Also, as was stated earlier in this thread Harris looks like he's out for the Panties so we might get some stuff up top too.

we put up 387 yds of offense on the panthers last year and that was when they were healthy. their D isn't as good as some people make it seem. we gave up less points last year than they did, but they ranked 6 spots higher in D than we did. either way i think our offense should do much better.

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I'm fairly certain Harris will go tomorrow. He was a game-time decision last week, even warming up. He decided then that he couldn't go. The week off should have given him enough time to heal. I'm still kind of worried about Gonzo, but isn't the Tampa 2 (Meeks ran it in Indy) supposed to eliminate the seam route? Anyway, Ryan's never been great against us, I'm far from terrified.

:lol: You wish!

Actually, it's the exact opposite. The the way to attack the Tampa 2 is through seem routes. It's the weakness of that scheme (ask any Falcon...3rd & 16 anyone, or Bucs fan for that matter).

The defense was created to combat the Westcoast-style offenses that rely on quick passes. But deep routes by TEs up the seems are usually the most effective way to fight the Tampa 2 scheme.

So, good luck. :lol:

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:lol: You wish!

Actually, it's the exact opposite. The the way to attack the Tampa 2 is through seem routes. It's the weakness of that scheme (ask any Falcon...3rd & 16 anyone, or Bucs fan for that matter).

The defense was created to combat the Westcoast-style offenses that rely on quick passes. But deep routes by TEs up the seems are usually the most effective way to fight the Tampa 2 scheme.

So, good luck. :lol:

So, when you drop the middle linebacker into a deep zone (the trait that separates it from a true Cover 2, which is probably what you're talking about) opens it up for deep passes as opposed to short ones? No. The seam is how you attack a conventional cover 2, which has five players short to take away slants, hook routes, and little shots out to a back or tight end in the flat. It leaves a seam in the middle of the field, between the safeties. The Tampa 2 moves the mike back into that seam area.

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