Falcons Spoil Panthers’ Perfect Season

pantherslogo1.pngCHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Falcons exposed Carolina’s weaknesses, defeating the Panthers 20-13 in Atlanta. Carolina’s undefeated season is over and they will need to win next week against the Buccaneers to seal home field advantage if the Cardinals win their next two games.

Carolina’s offense was uncharacteristically stagnant as Newton only put up 142 yards in the air and no touchdowns. Desmond Trufant blanketed Ted Ginn the entire game and eliminated the deep ball that destroyed the Falcons two weeks ago.

Newton’s protection was poor the entire game as he was continually pressured and didn’t have time to get comfortable in the pocket. Mike Remmers got beat by the rookie Vic Beasley who stripped Newton and sealed a Falcons victory.

Carolina’s defense has not looked like a top unit in recent weeks and have struggled to stop opponents on third downs. The secondary got burned by Julio Jones for 178 yards and allowed Matt Ryan to throw for 306 yards in total. In double coverage, neither Kuechly nor Coleman could stop Julio Jones from catching a jump ball and walking into the end zone. It was an embarrassing display of ineptitude.

The Panthers may have needed a reality check. The loss today highlighted the imperfections of the previously perfect Panthers like pass protection, weak secondary play, and, of course, dropped balls. Both Ted Ginn and Corey Brown dropped balls that would have been first downs. Those are real drive-killers.

Although the perfect season and 18 consecutive wins streak is over, Carolina is still the frontrunner for home field advantage in the NFC. Carolina has played phenomenally this year at home and an away loss in a gritty division rivalry game may not be a huge red flag.

However, with the way the playoff picture is sorting out, there is a large possibility that the Panthers will face the Seahawks, who are peaking at the right time and playing the type of football that earned them two consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. Carolina needs to be at the top of its game come playoff time, so look for the Panthers to go all out in their final regular season game to stay in top form.

It was a great run while it lasted and, while it is sad to see the streak end, the Panthers accomplished some remarkable things in their 18 straight wins. Every team that has started 14-0 has gone to the Super Bowl. I expect to see the Panthers suit up in February.