Falcons don’t know what to expect from Panthers

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VIDEO: Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan talks about preparing for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. Video by D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Falcons are not expecting the Carolina Panthers to overhaul their football schemes after the firing of coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday.

Interim coach Perry Fewell will implement some changes, but the Falcons (3-9) are anticipating that the Panthers (5-7) will stay close to their fundamental tenets at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

But there’s definitely an element of intrigue.

“You don’t know what to expect,” Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. “You might see a few different things here and there. Maybe a few changes on the defensive side. ... When you’re in that situation when you’re not quite sure what to expect, it’s about knowing your own plan and making sure that you’re on top of your own rules.”

The Falcons coaches spent the better part of Monday and Tuesday studying film on the Panthers and their tendencies. They were preparing their game plan to present to the team Wednesday when Rivera was fired Tuesday afternoon.

“What I explained to the team, much like when you prepare for a quarterback and a quarterback change comes in,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said about switching gears. “They’ve got a rock-solid program, foundation and philosophy of how you do things. Much like when a new quarterback comes in, there will be some tweaks to it, but not wholesale (changes) as it goes.”

The Falcons won the previous meeting 29-3 on Nov. 17. But the Falcons don’t expect all of their studying to be for naught.

“Not out the window,” defensive passing-game coordinator Jerome Henderson said of the early game-prep. “They will change some things. If a different guy is calling it, he may like some things better than others. They are still going to execute their system.”

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VIDEO: Falcons coach Dan Quinn discusses playing Carolina, which fired coach Ron Rivera. Video by. D. Orlando Ledbetter

The Falcons will attempt to prepare from some “un-scouted” looks.

“What it makes us do is make sure that we are on top of our stuff from a communication standpoint,” Henderson said. “From a rules standpoint to make sure that we are playing just sound good football.”

The preparation cycle will just shift slightly.

“When you lose your head coach, you just never know what a team is going to do,” safety Ricardo Allen said. “But you kind of know what the players can do. So, that’s where you’ll take more of the focus.”

Another move included offensive coordinator Norv Turner moving over to assistant head coach and Scott Turner, his son, taking over as offensive coordinator.

The Panthers’ offense has revolved around running back Christian McCaffrey.

“Same way, maybe they’ll have some new stuff on offense for us defensively,” Falcons linebacker Foye Oluokun said. “We’re going to prepare for them the same way. McCaffrey is a dynamic player. We are going to find ways to stop him and keep them out of the end zone.”

Fewell said that he was sticking with Kyle Allen as the quarterback. Rookie Will Grier, who was drafted in the third round last season after playing at Florida and West Virginia, will remain in a backup role.

“They have full belief in their system, certainly with Norv and Scott, I would think that on more than one occasion they’ve talked football around the dinner table,” Quinn said.

“You can’t go and make up things that are not there, but with (defensive coordinator) Eric (Washington) and Ron ... Norv and Scott on the offensive side, they have a real rock solid system in place.”

The Falcons made four interceptions in the previous meeting, three in Carolina’s red zone.

“It really was one of the things that I think was the difference in the game, taking those points off the board,” Henderson said. “For them to be down there three times and to come out with zero points from those possessions because the takeaways, really big for us. Swung momentum back to us and gave our offense the ball. Obviously, we’d like to do that again.”

Quinn was in contact with Rivera on the day he was terminated.

“I respect Ron quite a bit,” Quinn said. “Not just from my time here and having a chance to compete against him.

“I texted him that I’ll certainly miss you this weekend competing against you. Even during prior to my time in Atlanta going against his teams, I admired the toughness that they played with. (The games) were always hard-fought.

“I expect that to be the case again coming up this weekend. He is definitely someone in our profession that I regard highly.”


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