Excerpt: "The Falcons defense has struggled against Carolina’s zone read option offense this season.
The Panthers rushed for a season-high 199 yards against the Falcons on Sept. 30 and nearly duplicated the effort with 195 yards in their 30-20 upset victory on Sunday.
The Falcons could face zone read option quarterbacks in the playoffs if they play Washington or San Francisco. But defensive end John Abraham said the Falcons don’t have a problem with the attack that is popular in the college game.
Pro defenses are designed to stop drop-back quarterbacks and rarely account for a running quarterback. In their first meeting, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton rushed for 87 yards. On Sunday, he rushed for 116 yards, including a 72-yard touchdown run.
“I don’t think the read option really bothered us,” said Abraham on Monday. “Cam just ran a good play into a blitz and things happen. Sometimes you do good things and they show up. It was just a good play by him and good play-calling by them. I don’t think that the read option is a big deal for us.”
Newton also passed for 287 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history with at least 250 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run in one game.
“Defensively, we didn’t do a whole lot of good things in the ballgame,” Falcons coach Mike Smith said. “Probably the most significant thing that we did was we were 3-for-3 when they got the ball in the red zone. When they got the ball down in the red zone, we played some good red-zone defense.”
Smith was perturbed that all of the Panthers touchdowns came on explosive plays of 25, 72 and 53 yards.
Third down slump: The Falcons were 2-of-8 (25 percent) on third down conversions against the Panthers.
“We need better production on first and second down so that third down is manageable,” running back Michael Turner said. “So guys won’t have the ears pinned back, going after Matt (Ryan) and teeing off on him. We just have to get the ball rolling and keep it moving.” Read more...