Week 14: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
A quick summary of what went right, what went wrong and what went off the rails during Carolina's 40-20 loss at Atlanta.
THUMBS UP: The offensive playcalling was a little more inventive and there was at least an attempt to focus on the run. Five different players carried the football for the Panthers (5-8), including Curtis Samuel. The former running back-turned-wide receiver out of Ohio State had three carries for 17 yards.
THUMBS DOWN: The commitment to the run was shortlived, however. Carolina -- as it has more and more throughout the season -- leaned heavily on the passing game. The final result was only 22 rushing attempts as a team for 100 yards.
THUMBS UP: Even though he had a muffed pass that turned into an interception, Ian Thomas had an otherwise nice game for Carolina. Filling in for the injured Greg Olsen, Thomas caught five of 10 targets for 57 yards and at touchdown. A fourth-round pick last year out of Indiana, Thomas has 10 receptions this season for 85 yards.
THUMBS DOWN: Carolina's rushing defense was again awful. Atlanta ran for 159 yards on 32 carries for an average of 5.0 yards per attempt and with its longest run being only a 27-yarder by Brian Hill. The effort came only a week after Washington gutted the Panthers for 248 yards. Other notable rushing days by Carolina opponents this season: San Francisco, 232; LA Rams, 166; Green Bay, 163; Jacksonville, 149; Houston, 136.
THUMBS DOWN: The Falcons got to Kyle Allen five times for 48 yards. Carolina has given up 50 sacks this season, just shy of Miami's league-worst 51. By contrast, the Panthers' pass rush was nearly non-existent, sacking Matt Ryan only once. Ryan had been sacked 15 times over the previous four games.
THUMBS DOWN: The Panthers didn't protect the football, with Allen being the most notorious offender. Allen had a lost fumble against the Falcons, giving him seven lost fumbles out of 12 total this season. He also threw two interceptions, giving him 12 picks in 11 starts this year after not throwing one during his first four games as a starter. His struggles are even more pronounced against Atlanta, considering he has accounted for six of the Falcons' 10 team interceptions this season.
THUMBS DOWN: No consistency again for the Panthers, who trailed by only three points at halftime. Yet it lost its fifth straight in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final 20-point margin.
HE SAID IT: “We're all playing for our jobs.”
— Carolina Panthers interim head coach Perry Fewell.