Falcons, Panthers hope to avoid another brawl

The last time the Falcons and Panthers met on Nov. 16, a brawl broke out in the third quarter.

Falcons coach Mike Smith was stunned that only wide receiver Devin Hester received an unnecessary roughness penalty with just under three minutes left in the quarter. He came to the defense of wide receiver Harry Douglas, who was having his helmet embedded in the turf by cornerback Josh Norman.

Hester and Carolina safety Colin Jones ended up squaring off.

It started on the previous play, when Panthers safety Roman Harper was penalized for unnecessary roughness for shoving Roddy White’s helmet into the turf. White got up and pushed Harper in the head.

Five players were fined $8,268 apiece for their roles in the fights.

Harper and Norman were fined for the Panthers, while White, Douglas and Hester were also fined.

A few weeks later, the Panthers and the Saint had a major rumble.

“I think both teams understand what’s on the line,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “So, I don’t think any stuff that’s going to hurt a team is going to happen.”

But the Falcons and Panthers clearly don’t get along. The series has had a string of skirmishes since Matt Ryan was caught on camera telling them to “get the (expletive) off my field” after a Falcons’ victory in 2012.

“I’m sure there’ll be some stuff going back-and-forth,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “But that’s what you love about these games. Both teams have the ultimate desire to win. Guys are not going to back down from anything and that is what makes this game fun.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith isn’t anticipating another fight.

“It’ll be a very competitive, hard fought football game,” Smith said. “I have a lot of respect for Carolina coach Ron Rivera and his staff. He’ll have those guys ready to play.”

Rivera is also hoping for a clean game.

“We have to all be smart about it,” Rivera said. “We don’t want it to go the other way. We want it to be a good physical contest. At the end of the day, both teams can step away and say, ‘boy, we gave it our best.’”