Bank of America Stadium
Date: Sunday, December 12, 2010
1:00 p.m. Eastern Time
Type Of Turf: Natural
Meeting Of The Year: First
Season Record Vs. Spread:
Atlanta (R) 4-2-0
Carolina (H) 1-5-0
Home/Road Record Vs. Spread:
Atlanta (R) 4-2-0
Carolina (H) 1-5-0
Record On Natural Turf:
Record On Natural Turf Vs. Spread:
Falcons-Panthers PreviewBy NOEY KUPCHAN
2010-12-08 17:08:30 -
Fourth-quarter comebacks are nothing new to the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan, but he's unlikely to need one against the NFL's worst team.
The NFC South-leading Falcons will try to extend their longest winning streak in 12 years when they visit the struggling Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
After Eric Weems took back a kickoff 102 yards to bring Atlanta to within three last weekend at Tampa, Ryan capped a 67-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins with 4:31 remaining. It was his sixth game-winning effort in the final quarter this year, and it gave the Falcons a 28-24 victory.
"The mindset was the same. We felt like we could go down the field and score," said Ryan, who also led the Falcons to a last-minute 20-17 victory over Green Bay on Nov. 28. "We're confident in that situation. We've been in those situations a number of times this year. ... Nobody panicked because we understand that we can make plays when we need to."
Ryan finished with 205 passing yards and two touchdowns last Sunday but recorded his lowest passer rating of the season - 62.8 - after he was picked off twice, snapping the Falcons' franchise record of zero turnovers in four straight games.
"When you come out and you don't play as well as you like, but you still find a way to win, those are signs of a good football team," Ryan said.
Ryan got some help from the NFC's second-leading rusher, as Michael Turner ran for 88 yards and scored his eighth rushing TD - five of which have come over the previous five games.
Turner has scored five touchdowns and is averaging 111.0 yards on the ground over his last three meetings with Carolina.
Atlanta (10-2) is in the midst of a six-game run, its longest since winning its last nine in the 1998 regular season en route to its only Super Bowl appearance.
Coach Mike Smith is pleased with the direction of his team, but knows there's still plenty of work to be done.
"We like the position that we're in right now. I can assure you of that. Because (we're) going into this fourth quarter which to me is the most important quarter of the season," he said. "We've earned the 10 wins and we'll take it, we've been very fortunate to do that.
"There's a lot of football to be played."
While the Falcons are likely headed to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons, the Panthers are looking for their second win of 2010.
Carolina (1-11) fell for the sixth straight time in a 31-14 loss to Seattle last Sunday as it committed its 30th turnover - tied for second-most in the NFL.
Jimmy Clausen completed 18 of 34 passes for 169 yards with an interception and fell to 0-6 as a starter.
Clausen ranks last in completion percentage (50.5), passing yards (1,056), TDs (1), and rating (55.3) among quarterbacks with at least 200 passing attempts, but he continues to get a vote of confidence from coach John Fox.
"I think Jimmy will get better with time," Fox said Monday, "and we've got some time left."
The Panthers got rushing touchdowns from Mike Goodson and Jonathan Stewart to go up 14-0 last weekend, but they were shut out the rest of the way.
Carolina is last in the league with 154 points scored and has been held to an NFL-low 9.8 per game at home.
Stewart rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers beat Atlanta 28-19 at home Nov. 15, 2009, but he could struggle to find the end zone against a Falcons defense which has surrendered five rushing touchdowns.
Goodson, who has scored in back-to-back weeks, suffered a sprained AC joint in his shoulder against the Seahawks and is uncertain to play Sunday.
While Carolina continues to falter, Fox wants to finish the season on a high note.
"We're going to coach our rear ends off. These guys will play their rear ends off," Fox said. "Hopefully we can get some results."
The Panthers haven't lost seven straight since an eight-game skid Sept. 29-Nov. 24, 2002.
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