Here are three key matchups with the Falcons host the Panthers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium:
Panthers DTs Kawann Short and Dontari Poe vs. Falcons Gs Brandon Fusco and Andy Levitre: A week after the great Fletcher Cox collapsed the middle of the Falcons’ line, they’ll get another stiff test from Short and Poe, who was not re-signed and allowed to leave in free agency after playing a season with the Falcons. Short had two of the Panthers’ six sacks against the Cowboys, and Poe gobbled up blocks on 35 snaps. “Their guys up front are very physical,” Fusco said. “I noticed that right away.”
Panthers Ts Chris Clark and Taylor Moton vs. Falcons DEs Vic Beasley and Takk McKinley: The Panthers had to sign Clark after Daryl Williams was injured in the season opener. Starting left tackle Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve before the start of the season. Clark, 32, has played in 106 games and made 53 starts during stints with Houston and Denver. Beasley came up without a sack against the Eagles, while McKinley had a sack. The Panthers likely will try to slow the rush with their zone-read package and the threat of quarterback Cam Newton running.
Panthers MLB Luke Kuechly vs. Falcons RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman: The Panthers swarmed the Cowboys and held running back Ezekiel Elliott to 69 yards rushing in the opener. The Falcons had trouble getting the rushing attack on track against the Eagles. Devonta Freeman had a run of 20 yards, but was held out of practice with a sore knee during the key Wednesday and Thursday practices. Coleman scored on a 9-yard touchdown run against the Eagles. Ito Smith will back up Coleman if Freeman doesn’t play.
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