This one looked better at the end than it was.
I didn't feel like Carolina did what I was hoping to see them do - stop
the run, create pressure, make some plays offensively.
Did they win? Absolutely. Was it as much a blowout as the 34-10 score
said? In a lot of ways, no.
Carolina did well to win by that score, of course, and for a team that
doesn't make big plays offensively to continue to put up 30 points is
great. It also did a lot of little things well - running the ball was
really solid despite a lot of attention paid to the run by Atlanta - and
it did allright to overcome two interceptions by Cam Newton.
The defense struggled at times, letting Steven Jackson squirt for 43
yards, which would've been worse had Atlanta been in the game in the 4th
quarter. It did pull down 3 INT, including a pretty pick-six by the one
vet in the secondary, Drayton Florence; Thomas Davis gave up the body to
pull down a tipped ball, and Luke Kuechly setup the first score of the
day with a pretty pick on the bang-8 that they'd thrown up for Tony
Maybe my expectations are getting too high. I wouldn't have wanted
much different a score, but I saw some chinks in the armor that I didn't
love. So, here goes in handy bullet point form:
*Newton. Both INTs were deep throws, and to a point you expect some of
that to be a jump ball situation. But you don't throw the ball to Ted
Ginn in double coverage. Ron Rivera suggested that the other INT was an
issue of the WR (Steve Smith) stopping on the route, and maybe that
happened, but it wasn't a great read. Those INTs worked kinda like
punts - they weren't killers the way that Matt Ryan's were - but it
ended a nice run where Newton was smart with the ball.
Newton also didn't have the efficiency you'd started to expect from
him, where he missed a couple of guys and he'd thrown high. Credit for
yet another incredible goal line play to Greg Olsen. Newton remains
able to get off potential sacks, buy time, and make some things happen
in both phases of the offense, and definitely has matured. But they've
gotta find ways to get him to make plays without just chucking the ball
*pass rush - the DTs definitely did their job in the run game, but
neither the tackles nor ends got much pressure. Atlanta brought more
(see the line issue below) than Carolina did, and while they got a
couple hits on Ryan, not as much as last year; the first sack didn't
come until the game was essentially over.
*OL - weathering injuries to Chris Scott and Jeff Byers (yikes), Nate
Chandler became the sixth RG in the twelve weeks the team has been on
the field (if you count Ed Kugbila, who was with the first team for a
couple of minutes between injuries). Chandler's a former DT, and he
did an allright job considering...but the OL as a whole didn't do a good
job, getting bullied by a poor Atlanta front.
*back seven against the TE - the play with Luke Kuechly on Gonzalez was
the only time in the first half that they did anything to stop him; they
adjusted to him in the second half, just enough to give SF (Vernon
Davis) and NE (Rob Gronkowski) tape on how Carolina will react to them.
*luck - Carolina gets lucky lately, and despite the adage you do have
to be both lucky and good. But this is a game that could've really
turned on the Brandon LaFell fumble. Is there any correlation other
than luck on fumble recoveries? Not really, but that was a ball Atlanta
should've had in their hands. It would've been deflating, up by 7 with
13 mins to go, to not score there. That's why this game betrays its
final score - without a two-score deficit, Matt Ryan probably doesn't
throw up the pick-six, doesn't end another drive on a desperation
ball-holding sack (Charles Johnson the benefactor). Credit Carolina
for finishing the game with a massive drive at the end, sure. But up
by 7, or tied, would that drive have been as easy? Probably not.
Carolina has to be better than that. Yes, beating up on a 2-5 team is
nice. San Francisco is no 2-5 team; they don't care if you're playing
your 6th best RG, they don't care you're young in the secondary. They
aren't a team you can throw up 2 INT at; you can't warm up late in the
game, having somehow stayed up on them by 7 points because of turnovers,
expecting them to roll over. The 49ers don't play that type of game
under Jim Harbaugh.
Still, it's a 24 point win at home, and that never hurts. It was a
great team win - no one did anything spectacular excluding the INTs,
offensively or defensively no one really stood out enough. But you can
name 20 people who all did something dynamic enough to help earn the
win. So, I'll take it. But have to clean it up for the next two weeks.