For all the talk of Kelvin Benjamin’s departure potentially opening things up for the Panthers offense, the reality is that nothing of the sort occurred against the Falcons. Cam Newton completed just under 50% of his passes for 137 yards
The Falcons quietly got plenty of pressure on Newton yesterday, with Takkarist McKinley (5) and Vic Beasley (4 and a sack) leading the way. It seems obvious enough that had the Falcons continued to force the Panthers to throw the football, they may have been able to stall out one more drive or perhaps even pick an errant Newton pass. This is not, in summary, a good passing attack.
Yet for all that pressure, the Falcons were unable to track Newton when he took the football down to run, and they were utterly incapable of slowing the ground game for the Panthers except when Jonathan Stewart toted the rock. Newton ran 9 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, Christian McCaffrey rolled up 66 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, and the Panthers got 49 yards combined on 11 carries from a motley combination of backs and wide receivers. That is over 200 yards on the ground, and in a game where both of Carolina’s rushing touchdowns and about two-thirds of their offense came via the run, that was incredibly costly.
The offense will get and deserves most of the blame for this one, but the Falcons’ upside on defense will remain capped until they can prevent performances like this one.