NFC South: 2013 Week 7 Upon Further Review NFC

An examination of four hot issues from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 31-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Schiano’s future: Coach Greg Schiano is 0-6 this season and 1-11 in his last 12 games. Patience has to be wearing thin with ownership, and it might be worn out with fans. But I don’t think the Bucs are ready to make a move in a week in which they have to play a Thursday night game. Schiano’s job could be in jeopardy, but I think that’s at least a week away.

[+] EnlargeMike James
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMike James' workload will increase if Doug Martin is out for an extended period of time.
Doug Martin’s shoulder: The running back suffered a shoulder injury in the third quarter that the team believes is a torn labrum, according to reports. If he’s out for the rest of the season or even an extended period, the Bucs will have to turn to rookie Mike James, who did some good things Sunday. But James is not Martin.

The disappearing pass rush: I haven’t had time to go watch the replay yet, but I feel confident in saying that Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan barely was touched. He might have been hit once or twice, but that’s it. The pass rush is supposed to be a strength of the Buccaneers, but it failed against Ryan. There’s no excuse for that because Ryan’s playing behind a patch-work offensive line that hadn’t been playing that well.

The quick turnaround: The Bucs, who had 11 penalties against the Falcons, should spend a lot of time correcting their mistakes. But the problem is they don’t have time. They have barely any practice time before they take on Carolina on Thursday night at Raymond James Stadium.

Upon Further Review: Falcons Week 7

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
12:00
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An examination of five hot issues from the Atlanta Falcons' 31-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

Small wonder: Harry Douglas said on the radio Monday morning he would take his running back one-on-two against any defenders in the league. Of course, he was talking about diminutive teammate Jacquizz Rodgers, who caught two touchdowns in the red zone Sunday while winning his one-on-one matchups. On the first, the 5-foot-6, 188-pound Rodgers lined up in the slot against Bucs linebacker Lavonte David, grabbed a perfectly placed floater from Matt Ryan and carried David a couple of yards into the end zone. The Falcons were 2-of-3 in the red zone thanks to Rodgers and are 6-of-8 the last two games. "We want to be perfect," Rodgers said. "I think we missed an opportunity down there [Sunday]. But the past two games, we've been pretty good down there." It's about time.

[+] EnlargePeria Jerry
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMike Glennon has had an up-and-down rookie season.
On the run: As much as Rodgers excelled in the passing game Sunday, the Falcons' running game was pretty much nonexistent. Rodgers and Jason Snelling combined for just 30 yards on 15 carries. The effectiveness of screen plays, of course, can work just as well as a long rush. Still, the Falcons could use more balance with the run game because they can't expect Ryan to be a flawless passer every time out. Since it remains unclear when Steven Jackson will return from a Week 2 hamstring injury, Rodgers and Snelling have to be more effective moving forward.

In a rush: The Falcons went without a sack in two of the first four games. Thanks to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan dialing up blitzes, the defense was able to put adequate pressure on Bucs rookie quarterback Mike Glennon. Safety William Moore had one of those sacks, which led to a fumble and momentum-building 30-yard touchdown for fellow safety Thomas DeCoud off the fumble recovery. Peria Jerry had a sack near the end of the first half that forced the Bucs to kick a field goal. And Jonathan Massaquoi and Joplo Bartu combined for the other sack. The Falcons also got in five quarterback hits, led by Jerry with two. As they prepare to face one of their former teammates in Arizona, the Falcons might want to show John Abraham they don't miss him.

Catching on: Darius Johnson came to the Falcons as an undrafted rookie from SMU. After starting the season on the practice squad, Johnson was promoted to the active roster over the weekend to add depth, with Julio Jones and Roddy White both out. Johnson didn't look the least bit lost as the first receiver off the bench in a three-receiver set. He caught two passes for 24 yards while being targeted three times. "He has earned the right to go out there and play, had a crucial catch for a first down in the game," Falcons coach Mike Smith said of Johnson. "He is a very athletic, not big receiver, but athletic receiver with good speed. It was good to see him get his first catch in the National Football League."

On the line: Douglas somewhat criticized the media for not interviewing the offensive linemen following Sunday's game. Of course, he was the center of attention following a career-best 149 receiving yards, but Douglas couldn't stop praising the line's performance.

Ryan wasn't sacked in the game, and it wasn't just because he was getting the ball out quickly. But the line can't get too comfortable, not with the way the upcoming Cardinals can get to the quarterback with Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell & Co.

Upon Further Review: Panthers Week 7

October, 21, 2013
10/21/13
8:00
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A review of five hot issues from the Carolina Panthers' 30-15 victory over the St. Louis Rams:

[+] EnlargeCam Newton
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsOver the Panthers' past two games, Cam Newton is 35-of-43 for 446 yards and four TD passes.
Cam can: How impressive are Cam Newton's consecutive passer ratings of 143.4 (Minnesota) and 136.3 (St. Louis)? No other quarterback in the league -- including Peyton Manning, who is having a career year -- has had consecutive games of 136.0 or better this season. Newton was 15-for-17 for 204 yards and a touchdown against the Rams. Both incompletions were in the first half, and one was a drop by wide receiver Steve Smith. In Carolina's three wins Newton is 50-for-70 for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns in those games.

Fourth-and-1: The past few games have been about the Panthers' ability to convert, but on Sunday it was all about the defense's ability to stop. With the Rams threatening to knot the score at 7-all on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Carolina had everything covered perfectly on a pass play the Rams used successfully for a touchdown a week earlier against Houston. Safety Quintin Mikell in particular did a nice job of standing his ground on the play-action pass, leaving quarterback Sam Bradford nowhere to throw.

The Lurk: Safety Mike Mitchell stood on the St. Louis sideline after Bradford out of bounds in the fourth quarter with his arms spread wide. He called that his "lurk," meaning he's always lurking in the secondary. Mitchell said he didn't realize Bradford had injured his knee, which would sideline him for the rest of the game. (Bradford has a torn ACL, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.) Harvey Dahl didn't like the "lurk" move, which ultimately resulted in the offensive lineman getting a personal foul. Mitchell said his issues with Dahl began earlier in the game when Dahl hit linebacker Luke Kuechly late to draw his first personal foul. “You saw the cheap shot he put on Luke earlier," Mitchell said. "I told him about it and I think he had something against me the rest of the game because I got up in his face and told him, ‘You won’t do that to one of our players.'" Mitchell, by the way, also drew a personal foul from wide receiver Brian Quick.

The Luke: No, nothing's wrong with Kuechly, the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Kuechly had a career-low three tackles against the Rams and hasn't had double-digit tackles since the second game after having 10 such games last season. The guys up front simply are making more plays so the middle linebacker doesn't have to. Rookie first-round draft pick defensive tackle Star Lotulelei had a career-best six tackles, including two for losses. Second-round pick Kawann Short had three tackles, including two for losses. End Greg Hardy had four tackles, including a sack. Considering the Rams only ran 21 times, there weren't a lot of other opportunities. This is a sign the defense as a whole is playing better, not Kuechly playing worse.

Taking care of business: The Panthers (3-3) have won two in a row and three of their past four. With a win on Thursday night at Tampa Bay (0-6) they can climb above .500 for the first time since 2008. Then comes a winnable game against banged-up Atlanta (2-4). If Carolina can get to 5-3 it has a chance to make a run at the NFC playoffs with only seven teams posting a record better than 3-3 thus far. With six of the next 10 against NFC South opponents the division title could be within reach.

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