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PFF Review vPanthers


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It would be easy to look at the Falcons’ victory over the Panthers as just about wrapping up the number one seed in the NFC.

It wasn’t.

After losing some of their swagger in the home defeat to the Saints and with an offensive passing attack that has spluttered through the previous four weeks, the Falcons needed to dominate the lowly Panthers. And they needed to get back to playing the kind of ball we’ve come to expect from them.

They were able to do that with a convincing opening drive, before an Eric Weems punt return put the Panthers in a position you never thought they could come back from. The rest of the game for the Falcons’ starters was about showing everyone the Saints game was a one-off, and that they are still the team to beat in the NFC.

Mission accomplished.

Panthers: Three performances of note

It wouldn’t be a Panthers recap without mentioning Charles Johnson (+5.2). Perhaps the most interesting/surprising thing about this game was how much of Johnson we saw at right end. But LDE or RDE it didn’t matter, Johnson brought the pressure. On 32 rushes he picked up two quarterback hits and seven quarterback pressures to end a fine season from one of the leagues’ best defensive ends, on the evidence of 2010 at least.

It’s easy to see why C.J. Wilson (-2.2) was so far down the list of cornerbacks for Carolina. He came in at the RCB position in nickel situations and gave up three receptions on the four balls thrown at him, and looked overmatched when Michael Jenkins or Roddy White were lined up on him. He’ll be one on the roster bubble you imagine with a new coach coming in.

That’s the best we’ve seen Jimmy Clausen (+3.6) look. He missed a couple of open receivers for big plays, but there was something in this display that suggested if the Panthers don’t go quarterback in the draft, Clausen could warrant a shot. As ever he wasn’t helped by a couple of dropped passes, but he was particularly good when the Falcons blitzed him. Here he completed 70.6% and had a touchdown. It doesn’t eradicate a season looking out of his depth, and there were some backups in, but it provides some food for thought.

Falcons: Performances of note

It’s been since week 12 where Matt Ryan (+4.6) graded as well as he did against the Panthers, and he probably would have graded out better had he been left in the game. You sometimes may look at his stats and wonder what puts Ryan in the upper echelon of quarterbacks, but if you watch this game and see some of the sideline throws he made (especially on third down) you’ll see why. It has to be extremely encouraging for the Falcons with Ryan seemingly returning to top form.

Less encouraging will be the play of their offensive tackles. Sam Baker (-2.0) struggled and not for the first time this year, giving up his customary penalty along with a sack and two quarterback pressures. Still he didn’t have anywhere near the problems of Tyson Clabo (-3.0) who gave up five quarterback disruptions and had plenty of issues with his run blocking. The Falcons are a better team when Clabo is playing well, so they’ll be looking for an upturn in his performance.

About a year late, Jonathan Babineaux (+4.3) is getting some praise for his play. He hasn’t been as good this year as he was last, but he put forward the kind of game that will cause some sleepless nights for interior linemen in the upcoming post season. Alongside the impressive rookie Corey Peters (+2.9), Babineaux turned his limited action (jut 24 snaps) into a couple of defensive stops, a sack and two quarterback pressures. Babineaux remains one of the best defensive tackle in the league when it comes to getting up field and could be a real difference maker in the Falcons Super Bowl push.

Rookie report

Another one of those inconsistent days for the Carolina receivers. Brandon LaFell (+0.2) had his best play on an end around, while David Gettis (-0.4) generally struggled. They suffered for some poorly thrown passes and dropped balls … Rookie fullback Rashawn Jackson (+0.5) looked useful enough in his 15 snaps … We saw a lot of Greg Hardy (+1.4) who ended the day with two quarterback hits and two more pressures, while showing some athleticism dropping into coverage … Andre Neblett (-2.0) gave up a penalty on his first play and didn’t really redeem himself … Defensive end Eric Norwood (+1.3) picked up a sack and two pressures in limited action.

Even with the backups coming in Sean Weatherspoon (+0.0) only saw action in nickel packages … Corey Peters (+2.9) picked up his first sack, but his best work was in run defense with some excellent penetration leading to two defensive stops.

Random Notes

79 of the Panther’ 137 yards came on end-arounds … The Falcons only attempted one pass further than 19 yards.


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