Tag Archives: Greg Olsen

Carolina Panthers beat Falcons – What they’re saying

CHARLOTTE – The Carolina Panthers (5-3) did not play their best game of the season, but, as the old saying goes, “Good teams find ways to win games when they play poorly”. The Panthers did exactly that. They found a way to dominate the Atlanta Falcons (2-6), winning 34-10 at Bank of America Stadium.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton did not have a great game, but his team won 34-10 over Atlanta

Quarterback Cam Newton was 23-of-37 for 249 yards and did have one touchdown pass, but he also threw two interceptions and was very consistent in his passing…mostly high or overthrown…but the Panthers still found a way to win. The defense put enough pressure on Atlanta’s front four to force Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan into throwing 3 interceptions, including one pick-six by Drayton Florence.

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart
Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart returned to action after missing nearly a year due to injuries. He ran for a team-high 43 yards Sunday.

Jonathan Stewart returned to the Panthers backfield for the first time since last November and led the home team with 43 yards. His backfield partner, DeAngelo Williams was just a yard shy of that total.

When he found his receivers, Newton picked up chunks of yardage. Brandon LaFell led the receiving corps with 6 receptions for 74 yards. Tight end Greg Olsen caught 4 passes for 66 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown. That reception was Carolina coach Ron Rivera’s first of two fourth-and-one calls of the game and he was rewarded by having Newton find Olsen wide open on a play-action call for a 14 yard touchdown to open the scoring.

Coach Rivera’s second opportunity, in the last two minutes of the game, was an easier call. He let Graham Gano come on for an easy 20-yard field goal to ice the game.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis with an interception
Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis made the first of three interceptions yesterday for the home team.

As the league is coming to understand, the Panthers defense is a force to be reckoned with. When you pick off a good quarterback like Matt Ryan three times in a game (linebackers Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly and cornerback Drayton Florence) including Florence’s 38-yard pick six (on a nice shoe top grab), obviously your front four is putting pressure on the quarterback. And that’s how this team has been built. Big boys up front, agile linebackers and adequate safeties and cornerbacks. Pressure up front has been a trademark of this year’s team.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is tackled by Carolina Panthers safety Quintin Mikell (27) and safety Mike Mitchell (21)
Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez is tackled by Carolina Panthers safety Quintin Mikell (27) and safety Mike Mitchell (21) in Sunday’s 34-10 Panthers win.

Atlanta’s future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was a real force in the first half, catching 5 Matt Ryan passes for 77 yards. It seemed like every time Ryan went back to pass, Gonzalez was open. The Panthers defense addressed that situation at halftime, jamming him at the line and holding him to just one reception for four yards in the second half. Clearly, without Gonzalez as a target, Ryan and Atlanta’s offense was limited.

The Panthers travel to San Francisco next Sunday for a 4:05 p.m. Eastern start against the very dangerous 49ers, playing in Candlestick Park for one last season before moving to their new stadium in Santa Clara, CA.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING:

Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross: “We’ve done enough to get ourselves back on track. But we’ve got some tough games coming up. Winning this game, I said we’ll feel like we’re a pretty good team. But the rest of our schedule really just gets harder and we’ll see what we’re made of.”

“I thought Cam, even though his stats maybe aren’t as good as the last couple weeks, I was as proud of him today as I’ve been any game,” Gross said. “It wasn’t real pretty. He was getting banged around in the pocket. The run game was kind of slow starting and there wasn’t just long play after long play. We kind of had to hang in there and take our punches.

“He just kept his composure and was never rushed or stressed out or seeming to feel the pressure, and by the end of the day we were all smiling.”

Panthers strong safety Quinten Mikell on Gonzalez: “Tony is hard to stop. That’s why he’s a Hall of Famer. But we just turned it up a little bit the second half and played our technique a little bit better. We were aware where he was at all times. Obviously, we know that Matt Ryan, that’s his go-to guy, especially in crucial situations.”

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart on returning to action after a year’s layoff due to injuries: “I’m pretty sure if you’re not nervous your first carry, you’re kind of not human. I definitely had some nerves today and got worked out.”

Panthers tight end Greg Olsen: “To beat a team by that margin and not play your ‘A game,’ that’s the sign of a good team.”

Atlanta head coach Mike Smith: “We’re all held responsible and we’re all accountable for the 2-6 record.”

Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez: “I love going up against guys like that (Luke Kuechly) because they bring out the best in me and hopefully I can bring out the best in them.”

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Carolina Panthers (0-2) drop game at Buffalo: What they’re saying

The track record for 0-2 teams making the playoffs since 2008 may tell the Carolina Panthers their season is over. But let’s hold off on that. The NFL is full of 1-1 teams right now, including San Francisco, Green Bay and the Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens. What is telling is that the Panthers continue to lose games they should win.

The 24-23 loss to the resurgent Buffalo Bills Sunday (with just :02 seconds remaining in the game) now makes head coach Ron Rivera a huge target. Under his leadership, the Panthers are 2-14 in games decided by a touchdown or less. Since the playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990, teams that started the season 0-2 have made the playoffs 11.6% of the time.

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus. This was one of six sacks recorded by Buffalo.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton sacked by Buffalo Bills defensive lineman, Marcell Dareus. This was one of six sacks recorded by Buffalo.

The offensive line was a sieve, allowing the Bills defense to sack quarterback Cam Newton six times on Sunday. While the Panthers’ offensive brain trust wants to limit Newton’s running  this season, his line must provide better protection. His only options, run or be sacked. The offense needs to be more vertical as well, in my opinion. Conservative football is on the wane in the NFL, and with Newton, the Panthers have an outstanding weapon. He is big, strong and has football smarts. Just look at the results in the final six games of the 2012 season and you can see that.

While the Panthers have been slow starters for the past two, now three, seasons, speculation, of course, is how long will Rivera remain in charge. Personally, he’s a nice guy who is very open to the media. You can see this team is hurting. But this is a “win now” league, and with Atlanta and New Orleans the big dogs in the NFC South, this team cannot afford to lose Sunday to the similarly smarting New York Football Giants and Eli Manning. If you thought EJ Manuel, the Bills rookie quarterback had an up-and-down day, maybe you’re right. In the Panthers’ defense, they did lose three-fourths of their secondary to injuries. Free safety Charles Godfrey is probably lost for the season with an Achilles injury. However, Manuel was 27-of-39 for 296 yards and did lead the Bills on a game-winning 80-yard drive to close out the game. So…what do you think Eli will do to the Panthers’ secondary?

Here’s what they’re saying about the loss:

Carolina Panthers' head coach Ron Rivera is certainly on the hot seat. His team is off to another slow start in 2013.
Carolina Panthers’ head coach Ron Rivera is certainly on the hot seat. His team is off to another slow start in 2013.

Head coach Ron Rivera: “It’s very excruciating. You put yourself in position to win a football game, and you’ve got to close them out. That’s probably the toughest thing that we’ve got to learn to do – finish it off. How to punish somebody and end the game.”

Cam Newton, when the Panthers faced a fourth-and-one, from the Bills’ 21 yard line, with 1 minute, 42 seconds remaining on a call by Rivera, who opted for a field goal instead of going for the first down. “If we would have went for it on fourth-and-short, then obviously guys would have gritted their teeth and said, ‘Let’s get it’. And I have no doubt in my mind that we would have gotten it. But I have full confidence in our coaches’ decisions.”

Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel led his team on an 80-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with :02 remaining to beat Carolina 24-23 Sunday. It was Manuel's first win in the NFL.
Buffalo Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel led his team on an 80-yard drive capped off by a 2-yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson with :02 remaining to beat Carolina 24-23 Sunday. It was Manuel’s first win in the NFL.

On the Bills’ final drive, it appeared that the Panthers had stopped them on third-and-6 from the Panthers’ 31 with 21 seconds left. Manuel sailed a pass that third-team safety Colin Jones intercepted. But officials ruled Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly interfered with Johnson, who was Manuel’s target.

Kuechly on the call: “He was running down the middle of the field, he crossed my face and I had my arm out and he ran into my arm. Everything happened quick. I’ll take a quick peak at it (Monday) to see what it looked like.”

The Bills were able to run another play…and this one was the dagger. Stevie Johnson, lined up in the slot, ran a corner route, with wideout Chris Hogan coming across the middle. The Panthers were in man coverage, with cornerback Josh Norman lined up across from Hogan and defensive back D.J. Moore on Johnson in the slot.

Moore yelled for a switch, meaning Norman was to pick up Johnson in the corner. Johnson said he heard the call, but Norman said he never did.

Moore on the play: “They ran the play earlier in two-minute, and we’re supposed to switch it off. It was virtually the same thing. It was probably on me. I have to make sure the corner gets (the call). If he didn’t get it, it’s on me.”

Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) and tackle Jordan Gross (69) react to the Buffalo Bills' winning touchdown with :02 remaining in the game.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen (88) and tackle Jordan Gross (69) react to the Buffalo Bills’ winning touchdown with :02 remaining in the game.

Tight end Greg Olsen, who had a 13-yard touchdown reception Sunday, on being 0-2, and losing another game the Panthers should have won: “I don’t even know at this point what to say anymore. We need to change it, and that’s our only option. … We can’t continue to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves and continue to say, ‘Man, why did this happen to us?’ It happens to us because we allow it.”

The Giants will also be seeking their first win of the season, which makes the upcoming game absolutely crucial for two teams expecting to be in the playoffs this year. Only one will have any kind of chance.