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The Hog Molly Report: Panthers at Falcons

This is not the way you want to wrap up the regular season and head into the playoffs, hog molly or otherwise.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the Hog Molly Report, where winning in the trenches is all that matters. Before we begin, we open with the reciting of our usual motto:

In the spirit of Mr. Gettleman’s words (regardless of him having moved on) and the philosophy of building a team from the inside out, my goal will be to watch the hog mollies each game during the season and give them a grade based on their performance.

This week we will look at the demoralizing loss to the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers fell to 11-5 to finish the regular season, and unfortunately, gave away their shot to win the NFC South. The offense was atrocious, and although it doesn’t fall squarely on the hog mollies broad shoulders, they certainly didn’t help matters. On defense, it was a good performance, but not a great one. Let’s dive in.

Offensive Hog Mollies

Yards per Carry: 3.6, season: 4.3 (T-7th, NFL)

Yards per Play: 4.3, season: 5.0 (19th, NFL)

Sacks allowed: 2, season: 35 (T-13th, NFL)

Third downs converted: 5 of 15 or 33%, season: 42% (7th, NFL)

Rating: 2 out of 5 Lethargic Pork Bellies

2 out of 5 hogs

I hate to say it, but the Carolina Panthers we saw before the Kelvin Benjamin trade are back. It’s a direct result of not being able to field any credible speed threat on the outside, so defenses like Atlanta are simply taking away Greg Olsen, stacking the box and daring someone else to make a play. That did not happen on Sunday. No one could make a play, Cam Newton included. It was his worst day as a pro. He dealt with a moderate amount of pressure, and the run game could not help him at all. Here’s your sack report:

  1. 1:06 Q2, ATL 20, 2nd and 12 - Amini Silatolu gets beat like a scrambled egg right off the snap and Grady Jarrett plows over a hastily retreating Cam Newton for a big loss.
  2. 1:45 Q4, ATL 36, 1st and 10 - Daryl Williams loses on a speed rush to Vic Beasley fairly quickly, pocket collapses and Beasley cleans up Cam with nowhere for him to go.

In the end, it might be the injury to Damiere Byrd that sinks this ship. When Curtis Samuel went out, we needed Byrd to prove himself as a weapon, and he did that in brief spurts. It was enough to open things up in the playbook. Him getting hurt last week against Tampa Bay left us with nothing. Kaelin Clay is fast but ineffective as a receiver thus far, and Bersin is the opposite... technically sound but not quick.

The ineptitude of Cam Newton and his receivers made the formula simple. Keep more guys inside than our line can block, take care of the football, and just wait us out. It worked. The coaches will be desperate for answers this week, and let’s hope that this poor performance can gut check our players into a better performance against a New Orleans team that dealt with a bad loss of its own.

Defensive Hog Mollies

Yards per Carry: 2.3, season: 4.0 (T-10th, NFL)

Yards per Play: 5.2, season: 5.3 (17th, NFL)

Sacks given: 1, season: 50 (3rd, NFL)

Third down allowed %: 6 of 16 or 38%, season: 38% (13th, NFL)

Rating: 4 out of 5 Gap Plugging Hogs

4 out of 5 hogs

Simple and plain, we pissed away a good defensive performance. Atlanta ran 72 plays, and our guys held them to field goals almost every time. If our offense controls the football in some semblance of a normal way, you can probably cut the Atlanta point total down to 16 or so. We completely neutralized their running game, and got pressure on Matt Ryan fairly often but were unable to finish him off. We lost a hog here for that fact, and that we allowed Ryan to escape for a couple important runs. Normally though, this performance should be enough for any NFL team to win on.

Hog Molly of the Week: Kawann Short

There wasn’t anyone who stood out particularly in this game, but I ultimately decided to go with Kawann Short because he was the driving force shutting down the interior run. None of it will make the highlight reel, but these blue collar performances from him and Star Lotulelei are going to be incredibly critical next week if we are to stand a chance against the New Orleans Saints to win the wildcard. If we allow Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram to run for five yards a clip, we have literally no shot at winning. Holding Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to 2.3 ypc is downright excellent.