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Other Week 14 Game Recaps

Week 14 Game Recap: Atlanta Falcons 0, Carolina Panthers 38

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Atlanta Falcons

With defensive tackle Paul Soliai out for multiple weeks, the Falcons have been incapable of stopping the run and it happened just at the time Atlanta faced a bevy of quality runners capable of gashing their unit. The Falcons gave up big plays to Jonathan Stewart on the first drive and the run softened up the Falcons for two long touchdown receptions from Ted Ginn. By the time the Falcons had its third offensive series Carolina was up 21-0. Atlanta earned yards on the ground when they ran up the middle and bounced the run outside, but Carolina was too fast for Atlanta’s outside zone. Atlanta continues to avoid taking shots down field in the passing games and it allows the defense to tee off on the ground game, creating a vicious cycle for Matt Ryan, who got harassed into multiple sacks, two fumbles, and an interception. Atlanta’s offense has been found out as a one-man passing game lacking the pass protection for the coaching staff to feel comfortable going deep.

Carolina Panthers

Such was the Panthers' dominance that Cam Newton, who to that point had tossed three touchdown passes, was allowed to sit in the fourth quarter. Newton's command of the offense and his precision passing were on show against an overmatched Atlanta defense.

Jonathan Stewart picked up an injury in the first half, and did not play any snaps in the second half. However, he was on the sideline and appeared to be capable to return to the game if required.

Greg Olsen had a scary moment when his knee buckled at an awkward angle in the end zone. The reaction of the player himself seemed to indicate it could be a serious injury, but fortunately Olsen was deemed fine and could have returned to the game.

The offensive line paved the way for a strong game from the running backs once again, and for the most part afforded Newton excellent pass protection. This unit plays well together and has such a variety of running plays that it is difficult to stop.

The Panthers' stifling defense performed terrifically and will keep this offense in favourable game scripts for the remainder of the season. The loss of starting cornerback Bene Benwikere to injured reserve will hurt, however.

Atlanta Falcons

QB Matt Ryan, 53 offensive snaps, Pass: 22 - 34 - 224 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - -1 - 0
Ryan was limited to throwing the ball short for the first quarter and he was dumping the ball off fast to initial reads for minimal gains. He found Devonta Freeman on a quick hitter up the middle in the second quarter against a corner blitz and then went for it with Roddy White on a back-shoulder seam route under the safety to convert a fourth down play. But Ryan was sacked by Kawann Short up the middle on a play beginning with a fake screen and the hit jarred the ball loose for a loss of 26, later forcing another punt. Ryan took another sack up the middle on 3rd down during the third series of the second quarter on third down. Then he got hammered up the middle on a blitz by Luke Kuechly to begin the second half on his first pass. Two plays later, Thomas Davis hit Ryan on 3rd and 2 and Atlanta was forced to punt. Ryan was sacked by Short again late in the third quarter after mounting a small drive nearing mid-field and fumbled it away a second time. With less than a minute in the third quarter, Luke Kuechly undercut an intermediate crossing route intended for Justin Hardy for an interception. Atlanta reached the Carolina red zone once in this game and with Julio Jones out on a fourth and goal from the six; Ryan found Roddy White a yard shy of the end zone. From that point on, Sean Renfree was put in the game to mop up this blow-out loss.

RB Devonta Freeman, 43 offensive snaps, Rush: 12 - 40 - 0, Rec: 3 - 22 - 0 (5 targets)
The runner earned 21 yards on this second run, an attempt intended for left guard that he bounced outside thanks to a Roddy White block inside. But this was by far his best play of the day. Luke Kuechly stopped Freeman on an outside zone play to the right just before Freeman reached the tight end’s block that would have sprung him into the secondary. He was stuffed again in the left flat on another outside zone during this third series. Once again, he was stuffed up the middle for no gain to begin the second quarter. At this point, Carolina had a commanding lead and Freeman was either a blocker or a receiver in the Falcons’ game script. He caught a pass up the middle against a corner blitz for a first down, but was stuffed again up the middle in the second series of the second quarter on 2nd and 10. Freeman made two good runs on the second series of the second half, showcasing his creativity to avoid penetration in the back field, but he fumbled the ball on a short pass up the middle when A.J. Klein stripped Freeman from behind and Carolina recovered. Fell on a circle route on 3rd and goal form the six in the fourth quarter.

RB Tevin Coleman, 13 offensive snaps, Rush: 3 - 15 - 0 (1 targets)
Coleman was stuffed for a loss of nearly two on an end around during the first drive where Roman Harper ran Coleman down. By the time he earned more opportunities, Atlanta was in the midst of a blow-out.

RB Patrick DiMarco, 21 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (3 targets)
Down 14-0, DiMarco’s first gain was a pass to the flat for five yards on the opening play of the third series. He was targeted again on 3rd and 8, but pressure got to Matt Ryan and forced a hasty, inaccurate throw to end the second series with another punt. Down 21-0 at the end of the quarter, Ryan led off to DiMarco to the same flat for another positive gain. This was the extent of DiMarco’s production. He’s a predictable option that opposing defenses gladly give Matt Ryan between the 20s because he’s not a big-play threat.

WR Julio Jones, 8 offensive snaps, Rec: 7 - 88 - 0 (10 targets)
The receiver fumbled his first target, a short hitch in the left flat from the slot where Thomas Davis tackled and stripped the ball loose. The ball tumbled out of bounds. Josh Norman successfully screened the ball from Jones on a 2nd and 8 slant from trail position. Norman covered Jones tightly in most matchups with the big receiver, even on completed passes like a 3rd and 7 hook route for a first down. His best play was a 46-yard gain in the second half where Jones ran through a tackle after the catch in the fourth quarter and put a hurting on CB Bene Benikere, who left the game after that play. It was the first route not against Norman where he had some room to run. Curiously, Jones was not in the game for a fourth quarter pass inside the six on 4th and goal, but with Atlanta down 38-0 it probably wasn’t a major issue.

WR Nick Williams, 18 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 40 - 0 (4 targets)
The reserve caught a deflected WR screen and took it 29 yards to get inside the six in the fourth quarter down 38-0. His other three catches went for a total of 11 yards in mop-up duty.

WR Roddy White, 53 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 35 - 0 (5 targets)
White is another player that defenses aren’t afraid of and they are alright with giving up targets between the 20s if necessary. White caught a shallow cross as the first read on 3rd and 6 for a short gain well shy of the marker while down 21-0 in the second quarter. Atlanta went for it up the right seam on a fourth-down attempt and White made the play near his back shoulder for the first down under the safety. Ryan then overshot an intermediate cross to White on the second series of the second quarter. Two plays later, Ryan hit White on a short in-cut for 14 yards. With Julio Jones not in the game in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down pass inside the Carolina six, Ryan’s pass to White was a yard shy of the goal line. Justin Hardy: The rookie made a one-handed catch on a wide throw on a crossing route to earn a first down during the third series. The only other target he earned was an intermediate cross where he couldn’t outrun Luke Kuechly’s drop and the linebacker undercut the route for an interception. Until Hardy can demonstrate skill to win against defensive backs on-on-one, his good hands aren’t enough for him to become a fantasy option.

TE Jacob Tamme, 54 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 26 - 0 (5 targets)
The tight end caught a 3rd and 7 pass in the right flat but Carolina stopped him immediately in the open field, ending their first series. He gained eight in the right flat on the second throw

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 48 offensive snaps, Pass: 15 - 21 - 265 - 3 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - 4 - 0
The league MVP candidate started off the contest as he finished the New Orleans one, firing precision passes and showing excellent command at the line of scrimmage. Cam Newton's accuracy in particular stood out in this game, as he peppered his targets his passes behind an offensive line that, for the most part, protected him well. Newton saw a lot of pressure off his front side, and at times had to escape. One escape act ended in a loss of 10 yards, as the quarterback tried to do too much instead of simply throwing the ball away. Undeterred by the occasional pressure, Newton fired a beautiful touch pass to Greg Olsen on a corner route to set the offense up for their first score, a short touchdown run for Jonathan Stewart. Sensing the chance to build a strong lead, Newton fired another peach of a pass to Ted Ginn Jr., who separated down the left sideline and hauled in a 74-yard touchdown pass. The ball was ideally placed for Ginn to run on to. Newton would go back to Ginn for his second touchdown pass, as the speedster bisected the Falcons' zone defense and got on top of the safeties, allowing Newton to lay the football into his path with another precision throw. Newton made it a trio of touchdown passes with another bullet pass, this time in the red zone. Turnover-free this season in this part of the field, Newton showed confidence as he fired a pass so that only his receiver, Ed Dickson, could catch it. Dickson's tremendous effort to dive for the football made it possible, but the football was placed perfectly. Newton was fortunate a pass intended for Devin Funchess was not intercepted after the rookie receiver appeared to be confused on the route. The Atlanta cornerback dropped the pass to the turf and could not make the play. Newton left the game for one play after appearing to hurt his hand, but showed no ill effects for the remainder of his time on the field. The coaching staff inserted Derek Anderson in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand, but Newton set the table for what was another impressive performance.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 19 offensive snaps, Rush: 10 - 75 - 1, Rec: 1 - 14 - 0 (1 targets)
Starting off strongly with a huge run behind a convoy of blockers, who created a terrific seal, Jonathan Stewart set the tone early for the Panthers offense. Despite facing eight-man boxes, the quality of the blocks in front of him allowed Stewart to pick his way through traffic and gain positive yardage. He showed excellent vision on an inside give that was going nowhere; spotting the contain defender off left tackle had squeezed too far inside, Stewart bounced out the back door and turned it into a nice gain. His lone touchdown run came on a diving effort at the 1-yard line behind the interior of the Panthers offensive line, which bulldozed a path for the bullish back. Stewart picked up a slight foot injury at some point in the first half. With the game in hand, the coaching staff opted to sit him for the remainder of the game and he saw no snaps in the second half, paving the way for a committee of Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert.

RB Fozzy Whittaker, 29 offensive snaps, Rush: 8 - 34 - 1, Rec: 1 - -6 - 0 (1 targets)
The forgotten back of the undefeated Panthers' backfield, Fozzy Whittaker was the beneficiary of the injury to Jonathan Stewart, seeing plenty of action in the second half. Whittaker's excellent vision and quickness of feet were evident on his touches, as he consistently shimmied his way around defenders to pick up positive yardage. His touchdown run off right tackle was a thing of beauty. Following his lead blockers - who sealed the lane perfectly - he turned on the jets and sprang into the end zone to finish strong.

RB Mike Tolbert, 32 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 17 - 0, Rec: 2 - 13 - 0 (2 targets)
Involved early as a check-down option in the two-minute drill, Mike Tolbert saw more action in the second half after Jonathan Stewart was allowed to sit due to injury. Tolbert showed his trademark power and deceptive movement skills on his handful of touches, but most of his action came against an Atlanta defense playing out the string.

WR Devin Funchess, 40 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 25 - 0 (5 targets)
Playing a rotational role in the passing attack as he has most of the season, Devin Funchess made a rookie mistake on a bubble screen. Cam Newton threw the ball Funchess' way, when it seemed he was not running the correct route and was instead blocking downfield on a screen. The rookie was fortunate that the Falcons cornerback could not haul in the pass. Funchess made up for the error by hauling in a quick slant against tight coverage near the goal line, beating his man off the line with a nice stab step before boxing him out with his frame. Defensive pass interference was called on the play, but Funchess still made a strong catch with his hands.

WR Ted Ginn, 25 offensive snaps, Rush: 1 - 5 - 0, Rec: 2 - 120 - 2 (3 targets)
The recipient of two of Cam Newton's three touchdown passes, Ted Ginn exorcised some of the demons of his drops in New Orleans with this performance. An early red zone target saw Ginn run a slant route on the backside of the play as Newton rolled right; however, when Newton fired the pass in, it was well defended. Newton would soon find Ginn on a deep pass that went for a 74-yard score. Ginn got on top of the defensive back early and appeared to push off a little bit at the catch point in order to buy himself a yard. However, a defensive foul was called for illegal contact. Ginn needed only to turn on the afterburners and head for the end zone. Sensing blood in the water, the Panthers went back to Ginn on a deep route for his second touchdown reception. Against a two-deep look, Ginn bisected the safeties with a middle linebacker in trail coverage. The speedy receiver quickly separated from the underneath defender, allowing Newton to find him for what was an easy touchdown after the safety on Ginn's side of the field did not maintain his depth.

WR Jerricho Cotchery, 36 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)
Jerricho Cotchery scooped a low pass for an impressive catch, his only one of the game. However, he saw plenty of action in a rotational role as a blocker and sealed well for a couple of Jonathan Stewart carries. Overall, it was a day when the Panthers offense could afford to take their foot off the gas, limiting Cotchery's opportunities.

TE Greg Olsen, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 52 - 0 (4 targets)
Greg Olsen connected well with Cam Newton in the early stages against an overmatched Atlanta defense, with Olsen using his veteran savvy to find soft spots against the Falcons' zone and man defenses. Newton found Olsen with a dart over the middle for his first catch, which he rebounded with authority. Olsen was able to haul in a perfectly floated Newton pass on a flag pattern and establish himself as a runner before being brought down by contact; initially the play had been ruled a catch and fumble, but it was overturned. A scary moment for Olsen followed when, after the offense was set up near the goal line, Newton targeted him on a post pattern. Olsen's knee buckled at an awkward angle and his reaction seemed to indicate a serious injury. However, the tight end was seen warming up and looking spry at the beginning of the second half and was reportedly fine to return if needed. With the game in hand as it was, however, the coaching staff opted not to risk Olsen further.