ReFo: Falcons at Panthers, Week 11
A contest between a 3-6 Falcons team and a 3-6-1 Panthers team would not normally make for a high-stakes matchup, but in the NFC South this year, this was actually a battle for first place (with the Saints dropping to 4-6). Despite being up 16-3, it looked like Atlanta might drop another game in the fourth quarter after two Cam Newton touchdown passes. A late field goal from Matt Bryant ended up being the difference, however, when the usually reliable Graham Gano missed the potential game-winner from 43 yards out.
Atlanta Falcons – Performances of Note
Paul Worrilow, LB: +1.9
Breakdown: In a season of mostly dismal play, Worrilow’s effort against the Panthers demonstrated some of the second-year player’s potential, leading the team with six stops, including one sack. He is currently fifth in the league (among 36 ranked inside linebackers) with a Run Stop Percentage of 11.4%.
Signature Play: Q1, 3:54 remaining. Reading the play well, he is able to hop inside an attempted block by the tight end and stop Jonathan Stewart for no gain.
Dwight Lowery, SS: -3.2
Breakdown: This was an all-around difficult afternoon for Lowery, in what has been an otherwise decent season for him so far. He was unable to record a single defensive stop, despite playing 65 of 66 possible snaps, and missed two tackles as well.
Signature Play: Q4, 13:33 remaining. Here he whiffs on a tackle after a screen pass to Kelvin Benjamin when he should have had him for no gain.
Jake Matthews, OT: -1.5
Breakdown: A -1.5 grade almost appears good when compared to some of his earlier performances, but Matthews allowed five more quarterback pressures and a sack against Carolina. His total grade of -34.2 is the worst among all regular starting tackles in the league, not what Atlanta had hoped for from their first-round pick this year despite his injury.
Signature Stat: Matthews’ Pass Blocking Efficiency rating of 92.1 ranks him 70th out of 73 tackles.
Carolina Panthers – Performances of Note
Luke Kuechly, LB: +5.0
Breakdown: Kuechly continues to be a shining star in an otherwise disappointing year for the Panthers’ defense. He was flying all over the field again on Sunday, putting up nine stops, and adding a hit and a hurry on the quarterback. His work in coverage was as good as his run defense, allowing five catches for just 36 yards and rarely permitting any significant yards after the catch.
Signature Play: Q4, 6:20 remaining. Here Kuechly closes quickly on a hitch route and hammers tight end Levine Toilolo, easily separating him from the ball.
Chris Scott, RG: -3.3
Breakdown: While Trai Turner got the start for the Panthers, Scott saw his first action of the season, typically alternating series with Turner. Unfortunately, the journeyman struggled in his 2014 debut, especially in the run game, even though Scott actually saw more snaps than Turner (42 to 27) on Sunday against the Falcons.
Signature Play: Q1, 3:54 remaining. A good initial burst from Tyson Jackson knocks Scott back quickly, allowing Jackson to get inside and make the tackle for a short gain.
Kelvin Benjamin, WR: +1.5
Breakdown: Despite coming into this game with seven touchdowns, Benjamin has been very inconsistent in his rookie season. His performance against Atlanta ended up being his best of the year grade-wise, and he set a season-high with nine catches for 117 yards and a touchdown, although he added two more drops to his resume as well.
Signature Play: Q4, 9:18. Benjamin does a nice job here on a jumpball in the end zone against Desmond Trufant, using his height advantage to tip the ball to himself for the Panthers’ first touchdown.
PFF Game Ball
Although Carolina couldn’t win it in the end, Luke Kuechly gets our game ball for another outstanding performance.
Follow Roland on Twitter: @PFF_RolandB