As far as I can tell, our only hope for a win in Atlanta this week will be delivered on the ground. Atlanta is currently ranked 8th in pass defense, but 24th in run defense.
In week 1 against Kansas City, Jamaal Charles had 16 carries for 87 yards or 5.4 yards per carry. Shaun Draughn had 6 carries for 29 yards, 4.8 a carry.
Week 2 against Denver, Willis McGahee ran 22 times for 113 yards or 5.1 a carry.
Against the Chargers, Ryan Matthews ran for 4.4 yards per carry. Jackie Battle carried only 3 times but racked up 55 yards or 18.3 yards per carry.
The Falcons have not been able to keep a running back under 4.4 yards per carry so far this season.
How the Panthers win this game...
1. Get healthy. The Panthers will need Jonathan Stewart back in the lineup. Toe injuries are no joke and could keep him out on Sunday. Lets hope not.
2. Do not abandon the run. The Falcons can score. Teams have gotten in trouble against them by turning the ball over, falling behind early, and abandoning the run. The Falcons are 8th against the pass defensively and have an effective blitzing defense. Abandoning the run early, as the Panthers are known to do, will result in a loss, guaranteed.
3. Back to basics. Teams have been successful running the ball against the Falcons in pro sets. Their defense is built for speed and pass rush. Getting cute on draw plays and gimmicks trying to get to the edge only plays into their hands. They have the sideline to sideline speed needed to stop the draw. Punching them up the gut with J-Stew is the better option.
4. Run Cam Run. Instead of waiting in the pocket for a 15+ yard pass to open up and risking a sack. spend some time picking up a few running yards and sliding. The Falcons love bringing the pressure and blitzing their linebackers. This leaves the middle of the field fairly open for a few steps by our QB and a quick slide. A few of those, and the Falcons will be more hesitant to keep blitzing.
In short, if the Panthers will commit to what the bulk of their offensive salary cap is geared towards, running, they have a shot. If in the first quarter we see draws and slow developing 15+ passing plays, the game is already lost.