Final

Panthers 17

(1-5, 0-3 away)

Falcons 31

(3-3, 2-1 home)

1:00 PM ET, October 16, 2011

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 3 7 7 017
ATL 7 7 0 1731

Top Performers

Passing: C. Newton (CAR) - 237 YDS, 3 INT

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 27 CAR, 139 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: S. Smith Sr. (CAR) - 5 REC, 66 YDS

Panthers-Falcons Preview

STATS LLC

The Atlanta Falcons can talk all they want about how positive they remain despite a disappointing start. What they need is to turn that alleged confidence into some victories.

Looking to bounce back from another disappointing defeat, the Falcons could face another stiff challenge Sunday when they host the improving Carolina Panthers in rookie quarterback Cam Newton's first professional game in his home state.

Saddled with lofty expectations, Atlanta (2-3) has already lost as many games this season as it did while going 13-3 in 2010. An inconsistent offense and an underachieving defense can summarize the Falcons' rough start, but that's not enough to set the reigning NFC South champs into panic mode.

Not even after they were outscored 19-0 in the second half of a 25-14 home loss to undefeated Green Bay in a playoff rematch last Sunday.

"Certainly you have expectations to go out and play well," quarterback Matt Ryan said. "We haven't done that. But it's a long year. We're at that point where we've done some things really well, but we've also done some things poorly. We've got to feed off those positive things."

Ryan's play has contributed to his team's early struggles. The fourth-year signal caller has a 79.9 passer rating and has thrown six interceptions -- three fewer than he threw all of last season, when he posted a career-high 91.0 rating.

"I need to play better," Ryan said. "All our guys need to play better. That's what we're trying to do."

Ryan's 196 attempts rank third in the NFL behind pass-happy quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady. Not exactly what coach Mike Smith envisioned from an offense he expected to be balanced.

Michael Turner has rushed for 360 yards but only 146 over the last three games.

An offensive line that could be without injured center Todd McClure (knee) for a fourth time this season has not only struggled in run blocking but also has yielded 14 sacks.

Top receiver Roddy White's 32 receptions are tied for second in the NFL, but he has just two touchdowns.

All of that has caused a team that ranked fifth with 25.9 points per game last year, to be currently ranked 21st at 20.8 per contest.

"We're just not clicking," White said. "We're not where we need to be right now. But it's only the sixth game of the season. We've got nothing to do but get better. I'm trying to look at the bright side."

Typically, facing Carolina (1-4) would provide a ray of hope. Atlanta won both 2010 meetings with the Panthers by scores of 31-10, and has taken three straight in the series at the Georgia Dome.

Turner has averaged 102.4 yards and rushed for nine TDs in his last five games versus Carolina. Ryan has thrown for 1,166 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions while the Falcons have won four of five overall from the Panthers.

However, things might not come so easily for the Falcons in 2011. Though the Panthers have just one victory, all five of their games have been decided by seven points or fewer.

Offensively, Atlanta will be without talented rookie receiver Julio Jones because of a hamstring injury. Defensively, a unit that ranks 24th with 26.0 points allowed per game must find a way to contain Newton.

The dynamic No. 1 overall draft pick, who grew up just south of Atlanta in College Park, Ga., leads all quarterbacks with five rushing touchdowns -- one shy of tying the Panthers single-season record. Add in his 13 passing scores, and he's had a hand in 12 of the team's 13 touchdowns.

Newton's abilities through the air or on the ground obviously pose a challenge for the Falcons.

"It creates a lot of issues because in your preparation for most teams, more often than not, you don't have to account for the quarterback (as a runner)," Atlanta coach Mike Smith said. "That really is the issue it creates for coordinators."

While Newton appears to be a budding superstar, the Panthers still must learn to win.

They held a late four-point lead against New Orleans last weekend but allowed the Saints to score with 50 seconds left and lost 30-27.

"We're real close, but close doesn't get you nowhere," Newton said. "And that's probably the most disheartening thing, knowing how close we are to getting that win and putting us back on the map."

Veteran wideout Steve Smith has been a favorite Newton with 609 receiving yards -- second in the NFL. Smith, who has already surpassed his yardage total (554) from 2010, has caught 16 balls for 299 yards in his last two games at the Georgia Dome.

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Passing Leaders

CarolinaCMP%YDSTDINT
C. Newton64.728110
D. Anderson70.623020
AtlantaCMP%YDSTDINT
M. Ryan63.267943

Rushing Leaders

CarolinaCARYDSAVGTD
D. Williams14725.10
J. Stewart24572.41
AtlantaCARYDSAVGTD
S. Jackson23984.30
J. Rodgers11575.21

Receiving Leaders

CarolinaRECYDSAVGTD
G. Olsen1415511.11
K. Benjamin813817.31
AtlantaRECYDSAVGTD
J. Jones1420414.61
R. White1011411.41

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

TEAM OFFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Total YardsCAR
 
 390
ATL
 
 377
Yards PassingCAR
 
 239
ATL
 
 262
Yards RushingCAR
 
 151
ATL
 
 115
TEAM DEFENSETEAMPER GAME AVERAGE
Yards AllowedCAR
 
 378
ATL
 
 334
Pass Yds AllowedCAR
 
 247
ATL
 
 237
Rush Yds AllowedCAR
 
 131
ATL
 
 97

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Atlanta leads 15-7
Jan 2, 2011CAR 10, @ATL 31
Dec 12, 2010CAR 10, ATL 31
Nov 15, 2009CAR 28, ATL 19
Sep 20, 2009CAR 20, @ATL 28
Nov 23, 2008CAR 28, @ATL 45
Sep 28, 2008CAR 24, ATL 9
Nov 11, 2007CAR 13, ATL 20
Sep 23, 2007CAR 27, @ATL 20
Dec 24, 2006CAR 10, @ATL 3
Sep 10, 2006CAR 6, ATL 20
Jan 1, 2006CAR 44, @ATL 11
Dec 4, 2005CAR 24, ATL 6
Dec 18, 2004CAR 31, @ATL 34
Oct 3, 2004CAR 10, ATL 27
Dec 7, 2003CAR 14, @ATL 20
Sep 28, 2003CAR 23, ATL 3
Nov 24, 2002CAR 0, ATL 41
Oct 20, 2002CAR 0, @ATL 30
Nov 25, 2001CAR 7, ATL 10
Sep 23, 2001CAR 16, @ATL 24