C3 Up, Three Down is a series that identifies three key areas the Panthers succeeded and three areas they failed in their most recent contest. This week's C3 Up, Three Down weeds through the good and bad of Carolina's win over the Atlanta Falcons.
Three Things Done Well
The Carolina Panthers are the first back-to-back NFC South Champions! They not only beat, but de-feathered the Atlanta Falcons 34-3.
In this matchup, Matty Ice turned into Matty Nice. Because of the holiday season, Matt Ryan decided to be such a giving quarterback. He threw two interceptions, that turned into defensive touchdowns for the Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers have won four games in a row, and are the hottest team in the NFL. Tony Dungy said, “Carolina Panthers are red-hot.” Dungy and the NFL are aware of how well the Panthers are playing, and should make a solid run in the playofffs.
What three things did the Carolina Panthers do well against the Atlanta Falcons?
Josh Norman: Julio Jones is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and finished the game with only 58 receiving yards. How was that possible? You can thank Josh Norman for that. Norman chased around Jones all day, and held Julio to only four receptions. Shutting down Jones was a big reason why the Panthers won, and only allowed 3 points. Norman finished the game with two PD and had one tackle.
D-FENCE: The Carolina Panthers defense held Matt Ryan, and the Atlanta Falcons to only three points. Over the past few weeks the Falcons had the best passing offense in the NFL. The Panthers defense showed up, and had six sacks, and two pick sixes. The young defensive secondary came through for the Panthers, and the front seven pressured Matt Ryan.
Cam Newton: Superman put on his cape, and showed up again for the Carolina Panthers. I think that everyone forgot that he got in a car accident, and had two fractures in his back. Newton played like he never got hurt, and showed his leadership qualities on the field. According to ESPN, Newton received a QBR rating of 91.5. This is the best rating all season for Newton. Cam Newton played mistake-free football, in a playoff-type game. He finished the day by going 10/16 for 114 yards, and one touchdown. He also ran six times for 51 yards.
Three Up by Justin Raymond
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Three Things the Panthers did Poorly
How ‘bout them Panthers? After a season that saw Carolina lose six consecutive games at one point, the team battled back to win it’s last four games and take the NFC South crown. In doing so, the Panthers have become the first team in the division to win back to back NFC South titles. Carolina won the division in a “winner take all” game versus the Dirty Birds of Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. The Panthers defense stifled the Atlanta offense and the Carolina rushing attack ran roughshod over the Falcons defense to the tune of almost two hundred yards. This Panthers team is playing very good now and has gotten hot at the right time. There should not be one team that wants to play the Panthers in the playoffs.
With all that having been said, there were some things we could have improved on in the game versus Atlanta. Here are three things to be down on:
Kelvin Benjamin: This rookie has impressed this season, going for over one thousand yards receiving. As great as that accomplishment is, he has a real tendency to drop the easy receptions. In the game Sunday KB worked his way behind the defender, Desmond Trufant, for what could have been a long touchdown pass from Newton. For whatever reason KB was not able to haul in the perfectly thrown ball from Cam and the ball fell harmlessly to the ground. On another occasion KB had the ball slip right through his hands on what would have been a first down catch to keep a drive going.
This was one of the knocks on Benjamin coming out of college. He had a compulsion for dropping passes. This inclination for dropping passes needs to be cleaned up. Position coach Ricky Proehl has worked on this with KB and will surely continue to do so.
Kickoff Coverage: Thankfully the game did not come down to special teams play making a difference. But the Panthers kick off coverage did get gashed by Devin Hester for 66 yards on a return. That could have been a huge momentum swing if he had not been tackled. This area needs cleaning up as we will be facing former Panther and return specialist Ted Ginn Jr this coming week. While not a threat offensively Ginn is very capable of bringing one all the way back. We will best be served by kicking the ball out of the endzone.
Feeling of Accomplishment: This one comes after the win. Carolina has done something never done in the division before. It is fine to be proud of that feat. But they must not get complacent. There is still work to be done. The team is playing good enough to beat anybody now they just can’t start to get big headed. The focus must remain on winning the next game not looking back at what they have accomplished.
The Panthers will host Arizona this Saturday. This should be a good game but one Carolina is capable of winning. If the three things brought up in this post are addressed then the Panthers should be moving on to the next round.
Three Down by "that Freak'n Puerto Rican," aka @Joe Riollano