New-look Panthers set for rematch with Falcons

The Carolina Panthers have undergone many changes since their most recent meeting with the Falcons, on Oct. 31.

The Panthers (5-7) will host the Falcons (5-7) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte with a new offensive coordinator and with Cam Newton at quarterback.

After defeating the Falcons 19-13, the Panthers 11 days later signed Newton after Sam Darnold was injured. At the end of their bye week Sunday, they fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady, who interviewed for the Falcons’ head coaching spot before Arthur Smith was hired.

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Graphic showing NFC South standings through week 14

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Graphic showing NFC South standings through week 14
caption arrowCaption
Graphic showing NFC South standings through week 14

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Smith has played against interim head coaches before, but he couldn’t recall if he’s seen an in-season coordinator change.

“I think (we were) the first game when Miami made the move to Dan Campbell (in 2015),” Smith said. “We were the team that went (to Jacksonville) in 2016 because I remember it well because it knocked us out of the playoffs when Doug Marrone took over in Jacksonville (as interim coach).”

Despite the changes, the Falcons are expecting a tough battle against their NFC South opponent.

“It’ll be a tough divisional game no matter what’s going on over there,” Smith said. “Kind of worried about ourselves. We understand who they’ve got, and it’s not all of a sudden overnight (that) you’re going to see some completely new offense, or anything like that. So, we’re going to be ready to go.”

In the previous meeting, the Falcons held a 10-9 lead, but couldn’t move the ball. The Panthers leaned on their running game and got a field goal and a touchdown on a 6-yard run by Chuba Hubbard with 6:30 left in the game to take a 19-10 lead.

Younghoe Koo made a 53-yard field goal with 16 seconds left, but the Panthers’ Robby Anderson recovered the onside kick to secure the victory.

The Panthers ran the ball 47 times for 203 yards against the Falcons.

“We didn’t do a good enough job … finishing drives (against) Carolina and (playing) situational football, which cost us the game,” Smith said.

Brady had a virtual interview with the Falcons on Jan. 7. He was the offensive coordinator for LSU’s national championship team in the 2019 season. Before LSU, he worked with Saints from 2017-18.

He was replaced by Jeff Nixon, who was Panthers coach Matt Rhule’s offensive coordinator at Baylor.

“We’ll look at everything,” Smith said. “In the middle of the season, both teams have the players that they have. I doubt you’re going to see some magical you know, completely different scheme.”

But Smith is not certain how the Panthers will come out and didn’t rule out taking a peek at the Baylor tape.

“I mean, you got to be prepared for anything,” Smith said. “We’ll do our homework, but in my experience, maybe you get a bump in a little bit of, I don’t know what you call it, urgency. I don’t know. Every team is different. But we know this, the last time they came here, they ran the football on us.”

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A look at Cam Newton's season.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

A look at Cam Newton's season.
caption arrowCaption
A look at Cam Newton's season.

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Credit: ArLuther Lee

Newton has played two games with the Panthers and has completed 29 of 52 passes (55.8%) for 289 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He has a passer rating of 74.9.

Newton has rushed 16 times for 65 yards and three touchdowns.

“They got Cam in there, and he provides another weapon to run the football, and we’ll see what their game plan is,” Smith said. “We’ll see it early, but we got to be ready to go.”

Carolina has struggled on offense. The Panthers rank 28th in total yards (308.7 per game) and 23rd in scoring (19.7 points per game). They started the season 3-0, and their spiral can be traced to the injury sustained by running back Christian McCaffrey, who’s out for the season.

Rhule wanted the Panthers to run the ball more, while Brady kept the team passing.

“He’s done a lot to get us moving in the right direction, but this was something I felt like from a football perspective we needed to do now,” Rhule told Charlotte-area media members Monday. “Out of respect to Joe, I probably won’t go into tremendous detail; this was just something as hard as it is, I felt was right for us right now.”

Brady was the youngest coordinator in the NFL at age 30 when he was hired.

“I’m going to count on the coaches we have and the players that we have,” Rhule said. “We have to coach our best and play our best in the coming weeks. I felt with the bye week, this was the appropriate time.”

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Atlanta Falcons schedule and scores

Eagles 32, Falcons 6

Buccaneers 48, Falcons 25

Falcons 17, Giants 14

Washington 34, Falcons 30

Falcons 27, Jets 20

Bye Week

Falcons 30, Dolphins 28

Panthers 19, Falcons 13

Falcons 27, Saints 25

Cowboys 43, Falcons 3

Patriots 25, Falcons 0

Falcons 21, Jaguars 14

Buccaneers 30, Falcons 17

Final Five games

Falcons at Carolina, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

Falcons at San Francisco, 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 19

Detroit Lions at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 26

Falcons at Buffalo Bills, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 2

New Orleans Saints at Falcons, 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9

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