Two weeks ago the Carolina Panthers had a win and the NFC South within reach, until they squandered it away with bad decisions and poor execution. Fresh off a humiliating beatdown by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Panthers have another opportunity to get a much-needed win.
Here are the keys to tonight’s game:
Stop The Run
The Panthers’ defense allowed running back Joe Mixon to torch them for 153 yards and four touchdowns. The Bengals collectively rushed for 241 yards. In my preview for the game, I said that the Panthers should pressure the Cincinnati’s offense but don’t rely on blitzing. I was wrong. Against the Falcons’ fourth-best rushing attack, Carolina should sell out. Blitz and load up the box as much as possible. The Panthers’ defense must swarm to give themselves a chance to win. Linebacker Shaq Thompson knows that they have to be locked in to contain Atlanta’s rushing attack.
“We have to flush that last game,” Thompson said of Sunday’s loss at Cincinnati. “We know they(Falcons) like to tun the ball, so there’s going to be a lot of running and it’s going to be a physical game.”
Falcons’ cornerback AJ Terrell has been ruled out for tonight’s game with a hamstring injury. This is the fourth week in a row that DJ Moore and the Panthers’ offense won’t be facing an opponent’s top corner. The largest portion of Moore’s yards this season is over this stretch. His season high came against the Falcons two weeks ago. Carolina’s offense shouldn’t be afraid to throw deep routes to Moore and let him take advantage of the mismatches.
The best thing about having a short week after a loss is having the opportunity to wipe the slate clean. However, for the Panthers, there’s a lot to wipe from their memory bank ahead of Week 10. Letting the division slip through their hands only to come out flat the following week to get obliterated is a lot. PJ Walker has an opportunity to make up for his paltry performance. The defense has an opportunity to carry the team to a win against a division rival. Losses such as the Bengals and the Week 8 loss against the Falcons tend to linger. The Panthers must come out like those losses didn’t happen. Their energy, effort and fight is needed.