CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Traditionally, the Carolina Panthers are known for their defense and on Sunday in Atlanta, the defense was the talk of the game, but for all the wrong reasons.
Tevin Coleman became the first running back to break the 100 yard mark in a game since Thomas Rawls did so for Seattle on December 4, 2016. That streak of 21 games came to an end, leaving Head Coach Ron Rivera and Defensive Coordinator Eric Washington displeased by the result.
“The best thing about some of the mistakes that we made are all correctable,” Rivera said Monday. “Those are things we’ll get an opportunity to work on as coaches today and tomorrow. Once we get on the practice field on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, we’ll most certainly work to correct those as well.”
He was asked if the errors were either physical or mental. Rivera said it was both.
“It was a little bit of physical nature and a little bit of mental nature. A couple times not knowing how to fit, or where to fit. A couple times playing behind. Playing a little lazy. We can’t accept that, and we won’t tolerate that. We as coaches have to make sure we’re giving them a chance to succeed.”
“We gotta play faster, play ahead of the play instead of playing with the play, especially on defense,” Washington said Monday. “ All those things we’ll get corrected, and I’m looking forward going back to work this week and getting ready for Cincinnati.”
As a team, Atlanta ran for 170 total yards, while Matt Ryan was 23 for 28 through the air for 272 yards and two touchdowns in the 31-24 win over Carolina.
“We got to play faster, play ahead of the play instead of playing with the play, especially on defense,” Washington said. “All those things we’ll get corrected, and I’m looking forward going back to work this week and getting ready for Cincinnati.”
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton enjoyed a big day, throwing for 335 yards and three touchdowns, including the first of rookie DJ Moore’s career, all coming after a helmet-to-helmet hit delivered by Falcons safety Damontae Kazee.
On an fourth down and four in he second quarter, Newton scrambled from the pocket and after gaining 10 yards, Newton slid. As he did, Kazee dove head first at sliding Newton, making contact with Newton’s face mask and helmet. Kazee was ejected for the hit, while Newton was checked out by team trainers.
Newton returned to the field, and found Jarius Wright for his first touchdown pass of the game, but Rivera, a member of the League’s Competition Committee wasn’t happy to see that type of hit delivered on his signal-caller.
“I think that’s important. It’s sending a message to the players, that shots to the head of other players are not going to be tolerated,” Rivera said. “It’s something we have to understand. There was an emphasis on sliding quarterbacks, protecting the quarterbacks, was made this off season going into the regular season. Players were told if something like this were to happen, you could be ejected. It’s all part of the game, and it’s gotta be taken out of the game.”