NFC South: Panthers-Falcons 092009


Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


I had the pleasure of covering the Carolina-Atlanta game with ESPN.com colleague Len Pasquarelli. Since my background includes a lengthy stint as a beat writer covering Carolina, and Len’s includes an even longer stint as a beat writer covering the Falcons, we stayed true to that in our postgame columns. I wrote about Jake Delhomme and Carolina and Len wrote about Matt Ryan and Atlanta.

But there’s one thing on the Falcons I want to bring up here because it could be hugely significant. The injury to Atlanta rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry did not appear to be a small one. It looked bad at the time and I’ve even heard some rumblings that Atlanta’s pro personnel staff already is looking at available defensive tackles (ask the Panthers, there’s not much out there right now).

We should get stronger word on Jerry’s injury on Monday, but I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by projecting that he’s at least going to miss some time. This is a major concern because Jerry was off to a nice start.

With Thomas Johnson and Trey Lewis as the backup defensive tackles, the Falcons aren’t exactly loaded at this position.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- With Sunday’s victory, the Atlanta Falcons have set up the biggest game this franchise has had since going to the NFC Championship Game in the 2004 season.

I’m serious. And that statement includes last season’s playoff game against Arizona.

The Falcons are going to New England to play the Patriots. Think about that one. It goes way beyond Matt Ryan going back to Boston.

This is a chance for the Falcons to truly establish themselves as an elite team. I think they did most of the leg work on that last year, but a lot of people still don’t take the Falcons as seriously as they should.

Going into New England (yes, I'm aware the Patriots lost to the Jets, but they still are the Patriots) and coming out with a win would show the entire world that the Falcons are for real.

Atlanta rookie DT Jerry leaves game

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
3:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- Not a good scene for the Falcons. Rookie defensive tackle Peria Jerry is coming off the field after being treated by medical staff for several minutes.

Jerry isn't putting any weight on his left leg. Think it's safe to say he won't return today. He's about to be carted to the locker room.

Halftime observations from Atlanta

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
2:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- A few quick observations at halftime:
  • Jake Delhomme’s been fine for Carolina. No interceptions yet.
  • Warning to Carolina fans: Your bigger problem might be your defense.
  • Warning to Atlanta fans: Yeah, your offense is very good. But the defense isn’t looking nearly as good as it did against Miami last week. If you want to win the division, you’ve got to at least play a little defense.
  • At the moment, I’d say New Orleans has the best defense in the NFC South. Seriously.
  • Atlanta’s Jerious Norwood is out with a head injury and it doesn’t look like he’ll come back into this game. Jason Snelling’s doing pretty well as backup running back.
  • Carolina linebacker Na’il Diggs left the game with an injury. James Anderson has been playing in his place.
  • John Kasay’s still got some leg. He made a 50-yard field goal near the end of the first half.
  • That two-minute drill by the Falcons at the end of the first half was made into a one-minute drill by Matt Ryan. The guy was flawless on that series. By the way, first time in his career that Ryan has three touchdown passes in the first half of a game.
  • How about the Falcons putting Brian Finneran at safety on the Hail Mary at the end of the first half? He knocked it down.

Panthers' Diggs leaves game

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
1:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- Carolina linebacker Na'il Diggs has left the game with a rib injury. The team is saying his return is questionable.

This could be interesting. Landon Johnson is listed as the backup on the strong side. But Dan Connor, whose primary position is middle linebacker, is Carolina’s best reserve linebacker and some people in the organization think his future could be on the outside.

The door for that might have just opened.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- The Falcons should send a thank-you note to Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio.

He’s the guy who literally ran off linebacker Mike Peterson and cornerback Brian Williams. Former Jacksonville assistant Mike Smith was only too happy to sign those guys in Atlanta.

It’s paying off in a big way. Williams just blocked a Carolina punt and Peterson recovered it. The Falcons just took that field position and turned it into a Matt Ryan touchdown pass to Tony Gonzalez.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- They just announced in the press box that Atlanta running back/return man Jerious Norwood has a head injury.

His return to the game is questionable. Stay tuned on this one.

Join us on NFL Nation Live

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
12:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas


A quick reminder that you can join us on NFL Nation Live Sunday, starting at 1 p.m. ET. I'll be checking in periodically with observations from the game between the Panthers and Falcons, and we'll have writers across the league doing the same thing. Here's the link to get there.

Moore is Carolina's No. 2 QB

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
11:51
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA – Just got the inactive lists for the Panthers and Falcons and there are a couple of items that are worthy of noting -- pretty much all on the Carolina side.

Matt Moore is listed as the backup quarterback, and newly signed A.J. Feeley is the inactive third quarterback, presumably because he hasn’t had enough time to learn the playbook. Carolina also is going to be without two injured defensive starters.

Defensive tackle Nick Hayden and safety Chris Harris are inactive. The other inactives for Carolina are: Tyrell Sutton, C.J. Wilson, Garry Williams, Duke Robinson and Hilee Taylor.

Atlanta’s inactives are: Tye Hill, Verron Haynes, Spencer Adkins, Garrett Reynolds, Quinn Ojinnaka and Trey Lewis. John Parker Wilson is the third quarterback.

Live from the Georgia Dome

September, 20, 2009
9/20/09
10:49
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- Just getting settled into the Georgia Dome for this afternoon's game between the Panthers and Falcons. Have a couple of radio obligations to take care of first -- I'm scheduled to go on ESPN Radio at 11:25 a.m.

The teams have to have their inactives in by 11:30 a.m. I'm real curious to see if the Panthers activate Matt Moore or A.J. Feeley as their backup quarterback. I'll be back with that and the rest of the inactives as soon as I get them.

Greetings from Atlanta

September, 19, 2009
9/19/09
1:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas


ATLANTA -- Just getting settled into a very soggy Atlanta where flash-flood warnings are all over the television. Looks like a perfect day to bunker down at the hotel, watch college football and get ready for Sunday.

I'll be at the Georgia Dome for the game between the Carolina Panthers and Atlanta Falcons, where we'll find out if Jake Delhomme can save his career and his team's season. I'll also be keeping an eye on the Saints as they play at Philadelphia and the Buccaneers in Buffalo and checking in with observations on all those games.

Also, if you didn't see it last week, check out NFL Nation Live. It's something new we're doing this year and the early response has been great. It's basically a combination of a live chat and a message board. All our Blog Network members will be on there providing observations and you can weigh in with your thoughts. Here's the link and we'll get this rolling promptly at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

NFC South: Final Word

September, 18, 2009
9/18/09
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend’s games:
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Jake Delhomme needs to have a solid game against Atlanta in Week 2.
Carolina’s season truly is on the line in Week 2. That may seem like an over-the-top statement this early, but it fits. Teams that start 0-2 rarely make the playoffs and Carolina has tough games with Dallas and Washington following this one. If they lose to Atlanta, the Panthers could get out of control in a hurry. Jake Delhomme has had two horrendous games in a row and another one probably would leave the Panthers no choice but to pull the plug on the guy who’s been their quarterback since 2003. Delhomme doesn’t need Drew Brees-type numbers to keep his job. He just needs to come out and manage the game the way he used to. If he can do that, he can save Carolina’s season.

Kroy Biermann is the best NFC South player you’ve never heard of. The second-year defensive end already has two sacks. That’s two more than starter Jamaal Anderson. Biermann is undersized at 260 pounds, which is up about 15 pounds from last year. You’re going to hear a lot about Biermann before too long. He’s been underrated so far, mostly because of his size and the fact he didn’t exactly come from a football powerhouse at the University of Montana. Heck, Biermann’s high school wasn’t even a football powerhouse. Hardin High is known as a basketball school, so much so that legendary Crow Indian player Jonathan Takes Enemy was featured in a Sports Illustrated story by Gary Smith that, for my money, is the best sports story ever written.

Don’t sit Michael Turner in your fantasy league. Yeah, the Atlanta running back was bottled up a bit by Miami last week. But the Falcons aren’t going to stop handing him the ball, especially when they’re going up against a Carolina defensive line that doesn’t have a true run stuffer. Atlanta is going to be the kind of offense where you pick your poison. With Matt Ryan throwing to Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, defenses aren’t going to be able to put all the attention on Turner. His numbers will bounce back.

We’re going to find out Sunday if New Orleans’ defense is for real. Yeah, it’s looking like the Saints will face a quarterback making his first NFL start for the second straight week. It appears there’s a good possibility Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb will start in place of the injured Donovan McNabb. But this still will be a much bigger challenge than Matthew Stafford and Detroit last week because the rest of Philadelphia’s offense is good. The Saints have shown some good things and created some turnovers. But the true test of a defense is if it can stop a good running game. Here comes Brian Westbrook.

Sammie Stroughter is going to make the most noise of Tampa Bay’s rookie class this year. He was a seventh-round draft pick and dealt with some personal issues in college. But this guy already put that behind him when he claimed the No. 3 receiver job in the preseason. With Antonio Bryant’s knee acting up, Stroughter might be the closest thing Tampa Bay has to a downfield threat and the one thing Byron Leftwich does best is throw the deep ball.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas


Just got off the phone with Atlanta Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson. I’ll be writing an extensive piece on him and the Falcons’ defense for Friday, but wanted to share one item with you now.

The Falcons will be wearing their throwback uniforms in Sunday’s game with the Carolina Panthers and that’s creating a throwback situation for Peterson.

“I love the red helmets,’’ Peterson said. “They’re like what I wore with my Pop Warner team back in Florida.’’

For the record, Peterson played for the Alachua Raiders and that might be a good omen for Sunday. When Peterson was an eighth-grader, the Raiders won a national championship.

“It was my first time on a plane,’’ Peterson said. “We flew to California and won.’’

Peterson was the quarterback of that team and also played quarterback in high school, which was then part of Atlanta coach Mike Smith’s recruiting territory as a college assistant.

“Smitty saw me as a quarterback,’’ Peterson said. “I was always a quarterback. I’m not sure how I got into this linebacker thing.’’

Part of Friday’s story will be how Peterson now is the quarterback of Atlanta’s defense, but that can wait a day. Thursday night, Peterson’s planning on doing a little research on the 1966 Atlanta team that first wore the uniforms the Falcons will play in Sunday.

“I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know much about the 1966 team and I’m a guy that pays attention to history,’’ Peterson said. “I’m going to get on-line tonight and find out what that team was all about.’’

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