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Panthers blown out by Falcons; Falcons go to 11-2

Per AJC:

It wasn’t the prettiest of wins, but the Falcons did beat the hapless Panthers by 21 points on the road. The Falcons are taking care of business and that’s all that matters. Style points count for nothing in the NFL. Even though the Birds once again tried to let an inferior opponent back in the game, they did a good job of recognizing what was taking place and were able to correct it. This Falcons team is doing some great things, but they are simply not designed to blow the doors off pretty much anyone, at least so far anyway. They seem to play up or down to their competition. All that’s meaningful right now is that the Falcons have put themselves in a magnificent position as the regular season comes to a close. A rather quick review post before a longer Seattle Seahawks preview later in the week. Five film reviews from the Panthers game………

1) This Team Plays to Their Competition’s Level

Whether you’re talking about the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens or the San Francisco 49ers or the Carolina Panthers, this team consistently plays up or down to their competition. They always seem to get ready for a big contest and, obviously, show up accordingly since they’ve only lost two games, but they also have a real problem of playing down to their competition as well. They get up early on their foes only to let them right back in the game with their now standard and expected lull. They’ve gotten away with it for sure, but can they not just put away an opponent for good? On the flip side, they’ve shown up to every big contest put in front of them and have risen to the challenge, save for the Eagles game.

2) Turner’s Still Got It

Without Jason Snelling , any help from the running back fill-ins, or a razor sharp afternoon from Matt Ryan, Michael Turner has shown he’s still got plenty of gas left in the tank and has no problem taking the load on his shoulders. Turner amassed 112 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns, showing that he’s evidently getting his major hot streak back at the perfect time. Even though Turner can carry the load all on his own, the Falcons need to get Snelling back healthy or coax one of the younger guys to produce to help share the load down the home stretch. As always, this offensive line gets major props and had silenced many critics who thought they were overmatched and under-talented.

3) Fear the Lull

It’s not a matter of if, but when now when watching the Falcons play. They get up to a good lead and, for whatever reason, simply allow the opposing team to get right back in the game. It’s usually limited to the 2nd or 3rd quarters (mainly the 3rd), where the Falcons have found a decent amount of success and have often built up some type of decent lead. It has happened in too many games to count (Bengals, Ravens, Bucs x 2, Panthers). Yes, they were always winners in those games, but why is there a need to be cardiac for cardiac’s sake? Is it Mularkey’s coma-like induced state when he gets a lead? Is it Van Gorder’s prevent to win defense when a lead is there? Or is it something larger going to Head Coach Mike Smith and his persona? Who knows, but it would be nice to play a complete game one of these days (hopefully in the playoffs).

4) A Disturbing Trend: Run Defense

One of the cornerstones of the Mike Smith transformation has been one of the best teams against the run in the NFL. Regardless of talent on the OL or at running back, this defense has always done a fantastic job of shutting down the run. The defensive line, linebackers, and even secondary have always done a superb job of coming up, laying the wood, and stopping the run. The last two weeks have left some fans scratching their heads. Rookie LeGarrette Blount was the first to go over 100 yards rushing in a long time and Jonathan Stewart followed that with a 133 yard rushing performance. Hopefully, its just a lapse here and there and they can get it fixed, because this would be an absolutely terrible time to forget how to stop the run.

5) More Deep Attempts Please

It finally happened, the Matt Ryan-Harry Douglas was finally cemented with a long bomb to the local Jonesboro product on a simple go route against man-to-man coverage. A great route and an even better throw finally helped the two connect after so many near misses this year. HD says he finally back to 100% and it couldn’t happen at a better time. Ryan obviously has the arm to go deep and the receiving corps has potential to go down the field with different deep threat weapons: HD (speed), Jenks (height), and Roddy (all-around stud). So the question is why do they not take more shots down field? It could be Ryan’s fault because you can see him pull up after looking deep at the beginning of plays. Maybe its Mularkey and his preference for a clock-control, grind it out offense. Or perhaps fans have become thirsty for more after a few nice connections. We’re not saying to thrown 70 yard bombs every play, but even taking more shots would seem to open the intermediate game and running game that much more.

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