- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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Time for a run through the Tuesday morning headlines from around the division:
Although his team is off to a 4-0 start and has thorough command in the NFC South, Atlanta coach Mike Smith said he’s not getting carried away and isn’t focused on division foes just yet. He said he’ll worry more about division opponents when the Falcons play them. But, the reality is, if things keep going like they are, the Falcons might not have to worry about much in the NFC South.
Zeke Trezevant has a breakdown of the seven sacks the Falcons allowed Sunday. Most of them were given up by right tackle Tyson Clabo, who struggled to block Charles Johnson. But the encouraging thing is most of the rest of the sacks weren’t resulted to a breakdown of the offensive line. Instead, there were several coverage sacks, where Matt Ryan held the ball too long, instead of throwing it away.
Jonathan Jones has a good breakdown of what happened in the final seconds of the Falcons-Panthers game, when Smith tried to call a timeout he didn’t have. An official signaled for the timeout and then informed Smith he didn’t have one. It didn’t matter. The Falcons only had 10 men on defense and the pause allowed them to get 11 on the field. Officials did not hit Smith with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It sure sounds like the Panthers are ready to turn back to Sherrod Martin as their starting free safety after Haruki Nakamura didn’t work out. Martin was the starter last year and had some issues with tackling, but it seems like the Panthers have come to realize Martin is better than Nakamura in coverage.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Joe Unitas, the son of Johnny Unitas, wrote a letter to quarterback Drew Brees, wishing him luck as he tries to break his father’s record of touchdown passes in 47 consecutive games. The younger Unitas admired Brees’ skills on the field, but saluted him even more for what he’s done off it.
There have been rumblings that the NFL soon could re-issue punishments in the Saints’ bounty program. But, as of the end of the day Monday, no decision had been made. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma faced a season-long suspension and defensive end Will Smith faced a four-game suspension. Although both players have fought the penalties, the speculation is that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will issue the same punishments he did the first time.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
After watching quarterback Josh Freeman catch fire in the second half Sunday, coach Greg Schiano said he should have let his quarterback take more shots downfield in the first half. Schiano has talked about taking shots since the day he was hired. He has a quarterback with a strong arm and needs to let him take those shots on a consistent basis.
Jeremey Trueblood lost his starting job at right tackle to Demar Dotson. Trueblood wasn’t even active on Sunday because he can’t play other positions on the offensive line. The Bucs forced Trueblood to take a pay cut in the offseason. Unless there are dramatic changes, it’s safe to say Trueblood won’t be back with the Bucs next season.