Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Preview: Q&A With Panther Maven

Dave Holcomb

The Atlanta Falcons visit the Carolina Panthers in Week 11 on Sunday. Kickoff will be at 1 pm ET.

To preview the matchup, we sat down with Scott Hamilton of Panther Maven:

Q: What have you seen from quarterback Kyle Allen over the last few weeks? He experienced a tremendous start to his career, but he’s 1-2 in the last two games and has thrown five interceptions.

A: It could be chalked up to better competition, at least in those two losses. Playing at San Francisco and Green Bay is a far cry from beating Tennessee at home or even the likes of winning at Houston. Also, there's the mere fact that more video is available -- you can't overestimate the impact of that. But the biggest thing I've seen -- at least from a Carolina standpoint -- was how he performed under adverse conditions last week. He kept the Panthers on track even as Green Bay built a lead and had Carolina in position to possibly tie as time expired. And he did it despite committing two turnovers -- a fumble that eventually led to a Green Bay touchdown, and an interception that killed a promising Carolina drive. His ability to put those miscues behind him demonstrated serious growth.

Q: Christian McCaffrey is obviously having a tremendous season. But who is the No. 2 weapon on the Carolina offense (is there a consensus No. 2 playmaker)? Who else do the Falcons need to be concerned with on defense?

A: DJ Moore continues to develop into a No. 1 receiver. He had nine catches on 11 targets for 120 yards against Green Bay, a nice encore from his seven-catch, 101-yard game against Tennessee the week before. And Greg Olsen has reemerged after seeming to spend much of the season as almost an afterthought. The veteran tight end had 98 yards receiving on eight catches against the Packers, including career receptions Nos. 700 and 701. He was targeted a season-high 10 times by Allen (more than the previous two games combined) and caught three passes for 32 yards on Carolina's final drive of the game -- two of which produced first downs.

Q: Besides quarterback, what else has changed for the Panthers since their 0-2 start?

A: But it really is all about the quarterback – or at least mostly about the quarterback. And not so much as who’s playing it, but how the position is being treated. The offense has evolved because the quarterback is no longer the primary option – something that doesn’t happen when a healthy Cam Newton is in the game. Allen is instead playing the position in its purest form, that being as a distributor of the football. And with that you see more targets and touches for the likes of a DJ Moore and a Curtis Samuel. Norv Turner has also done a masterful job of figuring out how to get the ball to the primary weapon – Christian McCaffrey – over the past two months.

Q: Brian Burns is having a tremendous rookie season. At times, we could see him matched up against Falcons rookie offensive tackle Kaleb McGary. What do you expect to see in that potential matchup?

A: It’s going to be all about that first step. Burns is explosive and understands the importance of efficient movement, two things that make him especially dangerous coming off the edge. McGary doesn’t have the quickest feet nor have exceptional reach, but he’ll have to make a point to get in position during pass protection in order to make an initial punch on Burns to knock him off course. However, during run plays McGary is an earth-mover who’s good at starting one block and sliding off to pick up someone at the next level as the play progresses.

Q: The Panthers are 29th against the run this season. Is the run defense still a concern even though the Falcons could be without their top two running backs this week?

A: It’s a major concern until Carolina can clean it up. And even though Atlanta is near the bottom of the league in both rushing and rushing touchdowns, it only takes a few plays on the ground -- perhaps even just one rushing play -- to drastically shift the game.