Going to extremes after the Panthers dropped to 1-5 with a 31-17 loss to Atlanta at the Georgia Dome:
Worst quarter: The fourth, for Carolina. The Panthers actually led 17-14 entering the quarter and then got outscored, 17-0.
Best play: Atlanta had several candidates, but I'll go with Falcon defensive tackle Corey Peter's remarkable one-handed interception of a Cam Newton screen pass. With the Panthers down 24-17 and needing a touchdown desperately at the time, that was the kiss of death.
Worst QB rating: Newton set the all-time low of his young career with a 44.6 rating, fueled mostly by his three interceptions.
Best QB run: Newton scrambled very well throughout the game, and his 14-yard improvised run for a TD on third down was a beauty that gave Carolina its brief 17-14 lead.
Worst prediction: I actually thought the Panthers would win this game and said as much on this blog and in The Charlotte Observer. Instead, the Panthers lost for the first time this season by more than 7 points.
Best running back: Atlanta's Michael Turner. He killed the Panthers last year, scoring four times in two games, and hit that average again Sunday with two TDs as well as 139 rushing yards.
Worst luck: The Panthers came down on the wrong side of a couple of deflected passes. Early in the game, Greg Hardy knocked one of Matt Ryan's in the air, but the Falcons caught it for a short gain. Then just before halftime, the Falcons knocked one of Newton's in the air in the red zone and intercepted it. Had it not been deflected, it likely would have hit Steve Smith for a touchdown.
Best catch: Legedu Naanee, who I have criticized a number of times in this blog, had two superb catches the two times he was targeted by Newton. But he also committed a critical holding penalty in the fourth quarter.
Worst trend: The Panthers had two first-half pass interference penalties in the end zone that resulted in the ball being placed at the 1 -- one of them on Charles Godfrey and the other on Chris Gamble.
Best elevator companions: For some reason, the Falcons really draw some celebs to their games. I rode up the elevator to the press box in a crowd along with Deion Sanders (who was being honored at halftime) and movie star Vince Vaughn. On the way down, comedian Billy Crystal was in the elevator. Of the three, Vaughn turned out to be the most talkative.
Worst stat: Turnover margin. The Panthers never caused a Falcons turnover, which meant that the offense was always having to go 80 yards to think about scoring. Atlanta, on the other hand, had three turnovers (all on Newton interceptions) and also caused Jeremy Shockey and Steve Smith to fumble, although the Falcons didn't get either one of those. Still, ball security was a huge issue for Carolina.
6 days ago