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Monday, September 12, 2011
Hitting the NFC South links

By Pat Yasinskas

Carolina's Ron Rivera, Atlanta's Mike Smith and Tampa Bay's Raheem Morris all had to face the music Monday as they met with the press to reflect on Sunday's season-opening losses. Let's hit the links to see what they had to say and check some other notes from around the NFC South.

Rivera said rookie quarterback Cam Newton “exceeded expectations’’ in the season opener at Arizona. That’s good to know because someone out there might have thought the Panthers (or anyone else on the planet) actually expected Newton to go out and throw for 422 yards in his NFL debut. Rivera added there still are “some things to work on.’’ That’s also good to know because Newton’s probably not going to throw for 422 yards in every game for the next decade or so.

Just what Falcons’ fans want to hear after Sunday’s ugly loss to Chicago. Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick can’t wait to get back to Atlanta, the city where he started his NFL career.

Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Greg Olson suggested quarterback Josh Freeman and some other players might have lost their swagger in the loss to Detroit. He might have a point. But I don’t think you’d be out of line in suggesting Olsen’s play calling might have played a role in the loss of swagger.

Speaking of Tampa Bay’s play calling, running back LeGarrette Blount said he felt like he should have been on the field more Sunday. Blount carried only five times for 15 yards and was on the sideline as Tampa Bay spent much of the game running its two-minute offense, a package that doesn’t include Blount. Morris second guessed himself Monday, saying he might have gone to the two-minute offense too quickly.

Tampa Bay receiver Sammie Stroughter injured his foot Sunday and will have minor surgery that’s expected to keep him out a few weeks.

Smith said Atlanta center Joe Hawley, who was making his first career start against the Bears, had the most solid game of any of the offensive linemen. Then again, judging by what I saw out of the rest of the offensive line, that’s not real high praise. By the way, who thought it was a good idea to let Chicago's Julius Peppers have lots of one-on-one matchups with left tackle Sam Baker? A little help from the tight ends might have been nice.

The Bears, who tore apart one NFC South team already, are looking forward to another. When they play the Saints on Sunday, they’ll be going against former Chicago center Olin Kreutz, who was a very respected figure in the locker room during his time with the Bears. Also, it’s pretty safe to assume the New Orleans coaches and players might be tapping into Kreutz to find out a little more about Chicago’s offensive scheme and the tendencies of their defensive linemen.

New Orleans running back Patrick Cobbs, who was signed in August as a fill-in and promptly got hurt, was released off the injured-reserve list.