The Atlanta Falcons are preparing for a rebuilt and retooled Carolina Panthers offense Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Atlanta comes into Sunday’s game 4-3, ending a three game losing streak by defeating the New York Jets 25-20. Meanwhile, Carolina comes into the contest 5-3 and defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17-3 last Sunday.
In Carolina’s last game, Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton had 198 total yards (44 rushing yards) and threw a touchdown pass to recently-departed wide-receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Benjamin was traded to the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday. The Panthers received a 3rd round and 7th round pick respectively. According to the Panthers depth chart, wide receiver Russell Shepherd will replace Benjamin in the starting lineup, while rookie Curtis Samuel appears to be the third receiver.
“Kelvin did some terrific things for us,” said Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera. This gives us a chance to put young guys on the field with speed.”
As always with Carolina, a defense’s first priority is containing Newton. The former Auburn University signal-caller has thrown for 1,841 yards and 10 touchdowns in eight games.
“What isn’t as common is that there are some designed runs just for the quarterback,” Quinn said when asked about defending Newton. “When you’re defending the run game, not only is it the running backs, but it’s also now the quarterback. That part to me is different than most quarterbacks. You better have a good tacking plan based on his size to make sure you can get to his legs. Similarities [include] extending of plays on a third down or a scramble situation.
“Not similar are designed quarterback runs where he’s going to be the one keeping the ball no matter what. I would say that’s probably the one thing that makes him unique compared to the mobile quarterback. Oftentimes, the mobile quarterback [is like] Aaron Rodgers [who] is a very mobile quarterback, but it happens to be on the drop-back and he saw guys’ backs turned and he took off running. They’re not running quarterback power with him, so that’s a difference.”
With the loss of Benjamin, expect rookie running back Christian McCaffrey to get loads of attention. The Stanford product currently leads all NFL rookies in catches (49) and is second amongst the 2017 NFL rookie class with 378 receiving yards.
“He’s got equal amount of catches to carries, which is an unusual stat for a running back,” said Quinn during Wednesday’s press conference. “He’s got that kind of receiving skill out of the backfield or aligned as a receiver. Much like Free [Devonta Freeman] has that kind of change in direction, that’s the thing that I’ve been most impressed by him. Not only his hands, but his ability to change direction and break guys off in man-to-man.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons are playing their first division game of the season, a statistic that isn’t lost on the mind of Head Coach Dan Quinn.
“We’re jacked to begin the process with our guys,” Quinn said. “We really trust that [process] that we go through to get ready. There’s more familiarity as it goes when you play a division team, and certainly this year with so many of the schemes and systems being the same. Carolina has some new players that they’ll feature into their offense and defense, but we’re really pumped to get going.”
In the past three meetings, Matt Ryan has averaged 362 passing yards per game throwing 7 touchdowns and one interception in those previous games. Currently Devonta Freeman is tied for third in the NFL with five rushing touchdowns. In the past seven road match-ups against NFC South opponents, Freeman has averaged 115 yards per game and has four total touchdowns in those previous games.
The Atlanta Falcons will face off against the Carolina Panthers this Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Kickoff is scheduled for 1pm on FOX.