Falcons 31

(8-5, 4-3 away)

Panthers 23

(4-9, 2-5 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 11, 2011

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 7 0 10 1431
CAR 7 16 0 023

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 320 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: D. Williams (CAR) - 7 CAR, 87 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: S. Smith Sr. (CAR) - 6 REC, 125 YDS

Falcons-Panthers Preview


The Atlanta Falcons are in the thick of the NFC wild-card race, and re-establishing their running game may improve those postseason chances.

Capitalizing on a pair of key injuries combined with Michael Turner's historical success against the Carolina Panthers could play a big part in that.

With Turner on the cusp of matching a 23-year-old franchise record, the Falcons look to rebound from a loss by sweeping another season series from the NFC South rival on Sunday.

The Falcons (7-5) are tied with Chicago and Detroit for the wild-card lead heading into the final four weeks of the regular season.

Atlanta's postseason hopes took a slight hit with last week's 17-10 loss at Houston as the team was held to 70 yards rushing -- its second-lowest total of the season. Turner accounted for 44 on 14 carries after gaining 60 yards on 19 rushes in a 24-14 win over Minnesota the previous week.

Turner has dominated the Panthers (4-8) to the tune of 707 yards with an average of 4.7 per carry and 11 touchdowns in the past seven meetings.

He raced for a season-high 139 yards and two scores on 27 rushes in a 31-17 win over Carolina in Week 6.

"He's going to be real big, especially this week," wide receiver Roddy White said. "He's had a lot of success against these guys. We always get off to a good start and get the ball in his hands. He opens up the play action pass for us.

"In this game, it's really crucial to get him off to a really, really good start, just let him pound those guys for a little while then throw it over their heads. He's going to be a real focal point this week."

Turner's contributions this week may be even more pronounced as the Panthers' run defense ranks 27th in the NFL, surrendering an average of 132.5 yards.

Carolina is also without two key defensive tackles after Sione Fua (hamstring) and Terrell McClain (knee) became the 13th and 14 players, respectively, added to the team's injured reserve list this week. They'll be replaced by Andre Neblett and Frank Kearse, and coach Ron Rivera is aware of the challenge that poses against Turner.

"It kind of takes the wind out of your sails a little bit," Rivera said. "The big thing with (Turner) is you can't allow him to get started because he is tough to bring down."

Turner is one rushing touchdown shy of tying Gerald Riggs' franchise record of 48 set in 1988.

Turner also needs eight yards to reach 1,000 for a second consecutive season and third time in four years.

While Turner looks to continue his success against the Panthers, Matt Ryan hopes to rebound from last week's subpar effort. He completed 20 of 47 for 267 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for a season-low 50.6 passer rating.

Despite that performance, he nearly threw a game-tying touchdown as time expired against Houston, but Julio Jones couldn't haul in a pass in the corner of the end zone.

"This past Sunday, I should have made that play," Jones told the team's official website. "If you put any receiver, any athlete, in that situation, they'll feel like they should have made that play. I didn't so I've just got to keep moving forward and try to get better."

Jones missed the last meeting with the Panthers with a hamstring injury, and Ryan only needed to complete 12 of 22 passes for 163 yards with one TD while running for another score.

The Falcons are trying to win four in a row versus Carolina for the first time since a six-game streak from 2000-02. They won 31-10 in their last visit to Carolina in Week 14 of last season behind Turner's three touchdowns and 112 rushing yards.

The Panthers' running game is also formidable, ranking fifth in the league at 137.6 yards per game -- 364 total while winning the last two games.

That's partly due to rookie Cam Newton, who has 518 rushing yards and a 5.2 average per attempt while setting the single-season record for touchdowns on the ground by a quarterback with 13.

Newton has six rushing TDs over the last three games, while throwing for two. He ran for three scores and threw for another in last week's 38-19 win at Tampa Bay.

Newton hasn't been picked off in his last two games after he was intercepted four times by Detroit on Nov. 20. He threw three interceptions in the October loss to the Falcons.

"He most certainly is getting better and better each week," Rivera told the team's official website. "He's getting a greater understanding and feel for what we want to do and what we need to do."


Passing Leaders

M. Ryan66.146942814
T. Yates75.06401
C. Newton58.531271812
D. Anderson67.070150

Rushing Leaders

S. Jackson1907073.76
D. Freeman652483.81
J. Stewart1758094.63
C. Newton1035395.25

Receiving Leaders

J. Jones104159315.36
R. White8092111.57
G. Olsen84100812.06
K. Benjamin73100813.89

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsATL
Yards PassingATL
Yards RushingATL
Yards AllowedATL
Pass Yds AllowedATL
Rush Yds AllowedATL

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Atlanta leads 15-7
Oct 16, 2011ATL 31, CAR 17
Jan 2, 2011ATL 31, CAR 10
Dec 12, 2010ATL 31, @CAR 10
Nov 15, 2009ATL 19, @CAR 28
Sep 20, 2009ATL 28, CAR 20
Nov 23, 2008ATL 45, CAR 28
Sep 28, 2008ATL 9, @CAR 24
Nov 11, 2007ATL 20, @CAR 13
Sep 23, 2007ATL 20, CAR 27
Dec 24, 2006ATL 3, CAR 10
Sep 10, 2006ATL 20, @CAR 6
Jan 1, 2006ATL 11, CAR 44
Dec 4, 2005ATL 6, @CAR 24
Dec 18, 2004ATL 34, CAR 31
Oct 3, 2004ATL 27, @CAR 10
Dec 7, 2003ATL 20, CAR 14
Sep 28, 2003ATL 3, @CAR 23
Nov 24, 2002ATL 41, @CAR 0
Oct 20, 2002ATL 30, CAR 0
Nov 25, 2001ATL 10, @CAR 7
Sep 23, 2001ATL 24, CAR 16