3 key matchups: Falcons at Panthers

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Here are three key matchups to watch when the Falcons and the Panthers meet at 8:20 p.m. Thursday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte:

Falcons RT/LT Kaleb McGary and Jake Matthews vs. Panthers DE Brian Burns: In the previous game, Burns had a key sack-strip in the second quarter that led to their late rally and a 20-7 halftime lead. On the play, H-back Luke Stocker was late coming over to block Burns, who was lined up at left defensive end. He’ll move around and see both tackles. Matthews gave up a key sack-strip against Detroit’s Romeo Okwara in the fourth. Detroit converted the turnover into a field goal and took a 16-14 lead. Burns had sack-strips against the Chargers and Saints coming from right defensive end. “He’s becoming a dominant pass-rusher,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said. “The thing that I love is that he’s also trying to turn himself into an every-down player. I think that’s the secret sauce there. When you can be a great pass-rusher and still play the run, you can be one of the special ones. Brian has all of the tools. He’s got the right mindset. He’s seeing some of the fruits of his labor right now.”

Falcons RB Todd Gurley vs. Panthers LB Shaq Thompson: The Falcons need to stay on their blocks longer in the run game. Gurley has ran hard with little room to work over the past two games. He rushed 14 times for 121 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run when the teams met Oct. 11. Gurley’s seven rushing touchdowns are the third most through the first seven games of a season in franchise history. Only Devonta Freeman (nine in 2015) and Michael Turner (eight in 2009) had more. Thompson led the Panthers with 10 tackles in the previous meeting between the teams. He led them with 13 tackles against the Saints on Sunday. Overall, Thompson has 60 tackles on the season.

Falcons TE Hayden Hurst vs. Panthers SLB Jeremy Chinn: Hurst had a career-high six catches for 68 yards against the Lions. In the previous meeting, Hurst was targeted six times, but caught just two passes for eight yards. Chinn, a second-round pick this year from Southern Illinois, has an interception and four pass breakups. He also has 57 tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit.

Falcons' next four games

Falcons at Panthers at 8:20 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 29

Broncos at Falcons at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 8

Bye Week

Falcons at Saints at 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22

Las Vegas Raiders at Falcons at 1 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 29

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