Carolina's offense played a nice game, with a very balanced attack (205 yards through the air, 199 on the ground), but had more than enough fumbles. They only lost one; as Steve Smith took an end around, picked up first down yardage, but had it knocked loose by Robinson. Cam lost two himself, but was fortunate enough to not lose either. One was very crucial, as he fumbled on third and two after picking up first down yardage, and though it was recovered, it was behind the first down line. That was all right around 2 minutes to go in the game, with the Falcons having no timeouts remaining, and a first down winning the game. Other than fumbles, though, the Panthers had a great game. Cam stayed off the interception category, while throwing 2 TD's. He had a fantastic game running as well, with this 32 yard scamper, and he finished with 86 rushing yards, a 9.6 average, plus a touchdown. Williams had 49 yards on 11 carries, plus a touchdown, and Stewart had 40 yards on 10 rushes. Greg Olsen ended with 89 yards and a score. Nothing of huge magnitude for any other Panther, but Smith had a solid 52 yards, But nothing our receivers could do could compare to the day that Roddy White had: 8 catches, 169 yards and 2 scores. His biggest of all, though, was this travesty on our defenses' part.
As the final score of 30-28, the defenses both need improvement, though the Panthers Defensive Line, especially Charles Johnson (3.5 tackles, 2 TFL, 8 Total tackles), had a great game, consistently getting to Matt Ryan. A great Panthers defensive front effort; they finished by getting to the Falcons' Ryan 7 total times. A brilliant effort not only by the Defensive line, but also Sean McDermott in dialing up a good balance of blitzes and dropping back into coverage and forcing a "coverage sack." Rookie corner Josh Norman was third in the game in tackles with 7, and he had a very nice game. The linebackers were suspect at times, such as the Michael Turner 60 yard screen pass touchdown, as they didn't even get a hand on him and other various misses on tackles, but they were overall quite solid. This being said, it all breaks down with the secondary.
Our secondary is not one that can stop a passing team on a consistent basis, of which around 75-85% of NFL teams are. We have one truly good cover corner in Gamble, but the rest of the secondary is very weak. This hasn't been horribly exploited all season until this game, as they allowed 369 yards and 3 TD's, with only one INT. This includes the alluded to stat line of "Rowdy" Roddy White, who had 169 yards and 2 of Ryan's 3 TD passes. In all honesty, though, it broke down to one player (as much as it can possibly break down to one player. Obviously, an entire loss can't boil down to one man, but this man had a lot to do with the reason we lost the game.), and this player is named Haruki Nakamura. He was not burned by White just once (and this was atrocious), but twice (and this was nearly as bad). You can't get beat deep twice as a safety, when it's your entire job to be the last line of defense. But alas, he was, and the second was in the worst possible timing. The Falcons, after the Ryan-to-White bomb, were able to convert a Field Goal with just seconds left.
It's difficult to watch a game where a team plays beautifully, then is let down by crucial mistakes. Now no one goes out on Sunday trying to fail their team, but that's exactly what Nakamura did, even through his interception of Ryan in the red zone. The secondary as a whole needs tremendous help, and the coaches and front office have hopefully learned that after this one, but is these games where you really should have, in all reasonable finishes, have won, then lose on a bone head mistake.
Carolina MGMT, this is to you:
We need help in our secondary, so we can avoid losses like this.