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Car-Atl Grades: Cam Newton Struggles Under Pressure


FentayeJones
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As the Carolina Panthers’ undefeated season came to an end, let’s look at the most noteworthy events and top-graded performances from the Atlanta Falcons’ big 20-13 win:

Carolina Panthers

–It seemed that many had already ruled the MVP race over, but front-runner Cam Newton (+0.5 game grade) opened the door with a subpar performance that isn’t representative of his recent performance. Facing more pressure than he is accustomed to (15 of 34 dropbacks), he struggled to make plays with his arm all day long. He only completed three passes thrown 10 or more yards downfield all day, and while it would be nice to blame that on drops, his receivers only dropped two this week. The Falcons defense got the better of him, and highlighted a potential Achilles heel of Newton’s: His passer rating drops by 53 points when facing pressure, compared to the 27-point drop the average NFL quarterback experiences.

–One player the Falcons didn’t get the best of was Pro Bowl debutant Kawann Short (+7.4). Short had a monster game, and while his two sacks will catch the eye, it was actually his work in the running game that really stood out (his sacks were pure clean-up). He was disruptive all day long, with the Falcons’ inability to get their outside zone running game working largely because Short wouldn’t stay blocked.

–After a disappointing effort by his high standards last week, this week saw Luke Kuechly (-4.3) again hurt his case to be Defensive Player of the Year. He was ineffective against Atlanta, missing two tackles, being called for a penalty and getting beat for six catches into his primary coverage (not to mention his role in Julio Jones’ big touchdown). He’s a much better player than he showed Sunday, that’s for sure.

Top-graded players

DT Kawann Short (+7.4)

RG Trai Turner (+2.8)

LB Thomas Davis (+1.6)

FB Mike Tolbert (+1.6)

C Ryan Kalil (+1.3)

Atlanta Falcons

–Where was this Matt Ryan (+5.8) when the Falcons were throwing away their shot at the postseason? Ryan was nearly immaculate against Carolina, completing 23 of 29 aimed passes, with four drops — meaning he was guilty of just two off-target passes. That’s incredible accuracy. What’s more, he didn’t dink and dunk the Panthers, instead going heavy on the play-action and attacking them in the intermediate middle of the field. There, he completed five of seven passes for 81 yards, including some big chain-movers.

–Of course, it’s hard to imagine Ryan being anywhere near as effective if he didn’t have the help of Julio Jones (+4.8). Jones is as physically intimidating a receiver as there is in the league, and he showed it with his highlight-reel touchdown grab over Luke Kuechly (-4.3). That wasn’t the only way he hurt the Panthers, and he can claim a victory in his battle with Josh Norman (-1.4), catching five of six balls when Norman was covering him, for 80 yards.

–It wasn’t just the offense that had some big days, with Vic Beasley (+3.6) having what the Falcons will hope was a breakout game that was a sign of his promising future. He had a sack and three hurries while causing Mike Remmers (-0.9) a lot of problems. His game-winning strip sack was an example of just the kind of player Atlanta may have when a fully healthy Beasley takes the field in 2016.

Top-graded players:

QB Matt Ryan (+5.5)

WR Julio Jones (+4.0)

DE Vic Beasley (+3.6)

LB Justin Durant (+2.9)

DT Ra’Shede Hageman (+2.4)

https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2015/12/27/car-atl-grades-cam-newton-struggles-under-pressure/

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Bruce Irvin will be a Falcon. We'll have Irvin and Reed for situational SLB and Schofield alternating between LEO and SLB like he did in Seattle. One more great LEO in the draft would be perfect. Then we need playmaking linebackers and safeties and we'll be in the top 5 in defense.

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Man, we need to go heavy on pass rush next offseason. We've needed to for a while, but this is a division team. It helps with everyone, but it's apparently Cam's kryptonite.

The good thing is, we having the makings of a good pass rush,

Hageman when he is on looks like a man among boys, Beasley has shown his incredible first step and has the physical tools to be a monster pass rusher, and Jarrett has shown serious flashes of disruption.

If we can keep Clayborn and Obrien on reasonable deals and add another 2 ends/ disrupting tackles then I think we will be well on our way.

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The good thing is, we having the makings of a good pass rush,

Hageman when he is on looks like a man among boys, Beasley has shown his incredible first step and has the physical tools to be a monster pass rusher, and Jarrett has shown serious flashes of disruption.

If we can keep Clayborn and Obrien on reasonable deals and add another 2 ends/ disrupting tackles then I think we will be well on our way.

I think so too. I'm more worried about our LB corps than the d-line, but both still need work. We still need another S.

On offense, we need a C, maybe a G, and probably a TE in the draft. Another big WR to play the outside and let Roddy and Hardy work the slot would be nice too. I anticipate a lot of roster turnover this offseason, but if they turnover the right pieces, this team could be dangerous. Getting Wheeler in FA looks to have been a coup. He's never going to be a cornerstone of the defense, but man he looks like a nice rotational player.

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I think so too. I'm more worried about our LB corps than the d-line, but both still need work. We still need another S.

On offense, we need a C, maybe a G, and probably a TE in the draft. Another big WR to play the outside and let Roddy and Hardy work the slot would be nice too. I anticipate a lot of roster turnover this offseason, but if they turnover the right pieces, this team could be dangerous. Getting Wheeler in FA looks to have been a coup. He's never going to be a cornerstone of the defense, but man he looks like a nice rotational player.

We're lucky in that LB is often a position where good prospects (or even undervalued guys) can step in and be productive quickly. But it definitely is a problem area and needs to be a focus for us.

Safety could use another strong piece but I don't know that it's worth sinking a lot of capital into the position unless it's for a major difference maker. I don't know what the safety class looks like but if a good S prospect falls down the draft board a bit (ala Earl Thomas) we'd be wise to jump on that. Just don't know that there are many Earl Thomases out there...

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Yup and Aaron Rodgers looked like Blaine Gabbert today against the strong Cardinals pass rush (Dwight Freeney with 3 sacks).

However in Atlanta Matt Ryan is consistently having the defense in his face and when it effects his play the fans shout traded him...bench him or some other stupid comment. Fact is Ryan plays better under consistent pressure than anybnfl qb.
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