The Carolina Panthers play an underperforming Falcons team this week. Yet Matt Ryan is not the problem, so the Panthers still need to play smart.
The Carolina Panthers face off with the Atlanta Falcons tomorrow at Bank of America. Like the New Orleans Saints last week, this is a game the Panthers cannot overlook as they try to get ready for the playoffs. The Falcons have been on a losing streak, and last week they fell to .500 after losing to to Tampa Bay.
To address what has gone wrong with the Falcons, ESPN writer Bill Barnwell sat down to write an article about it. His conclusion was that the Falcons were not suffering because of poor play from Matt Ryan, the quarterback. Rather the Falcons were being let down by their receivers. Barnwell noted that the receivers for the Falcons were not getting open. Ryan was throwing more interceptions because he had too little space to make the play.
Why are the receivers not getting open? Perhaps part of the problem has to do with a lack of a running game. The Falcons were dangerous earlier this year when Devonta Freeman was lugging the ball. His production forced teams to adjust to that threat. That gave Ryan to option plays out to quick hitters for Julio Jones. Freeman got hurt and the running game disappeared. Barnwell noted the quick hitters to Jones disappeared as well.
Another problem that the Falcons have is the number two guy problem. Jones spent his first seasons with a healthy Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez to hurt defenses and allow Jones more chances. Gonzalez is part of the NFL Today on CBS now, and White has not looked himself this year. He had been passed by Leonard Hankerson on the roster until Hankerson was lost for the year.
At least White is on the field. The search for Gonzalez’s replacement has not been finished with Peyton Manning favorite Jacob Tamme currently holding that spot, and Tamme has not been a red zone threat this year according to Barnwell.
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The missing man in this formula is Justin Hardy of ECU. Hardy can’t get on the field, which seems odd for a guy who seems designed to work the middle of the field and give Ryan a bailout option. So the Falcons have lost the balance in their offense and now even their passing game seems gone.
The problem with this idea is that Matt Ryan is still pretty good. He has thrown stupid passes against the Panthers before that have worked. Since he is not the element that is broken for the Falcons, there is always the chance that the Dirty Birds figure it out exactly when they play the Panthers.
This was the problem with the Seahawks and Jimmy Graham and the Saints playing a high level game at home. Those things could work themselves out. The Panthers need to be ready for that.
The Panthers play the Falcons Sunday at 1 PM.