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Sunday, December 4, 2011
Halftime observations

By Pat Yasinskas
ESPN.com

A few quick observations on the first half of the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans and the first half of the contest between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If you though the Falcons were going to have an easy time against the Texans, who had to start rookie quarterback T.J. Yates, you would be wrong.  The Texans have a 10-3 lead at halftime. Yates is playing fairly well and he’s getting lots of help from his defense. Atlanta’s Matt Ryan has thrown two interceptions and the Falcons haven’t been able to get their running game going. The Falcons have to get something going offensively in the second half or else their path to the playoffs will get a lot more difficult.

The Panthers have a 24-12 lead on the Buccaneers. Carolina took control by scoring on its first two drives. The Panthers are running well against a Tampa Bay defense that has had problems stopping the run most of the season. The biggest surprise might be the play of Carolina’s defense. The Panthers had been having all sorts of problems against the running game. But, so far, they’ve kept LeGarrette Blount in check. Josh Johnson, who is playing for the injured Josh Freeman, has hit a few deep passes, but the Bucs have had to settle for four field goals. The bright spot for Tampa Bay has been rookie defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, who has 1.5 sacks and had another one negated by a penalty.

I’ll be back with wrap-ups on both games soon after they end. After that I’ll head over to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to cover Sunday night’s game between the Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints.