CHARLOTTE -- Against the Falcons last Sunday, the Panthers actually finished with a slight edge in third-down success ratio, converting seven of 12 opportunties compared with six of 12 for Atlanta.
But because the Falcons converted six in succession -- and then followed two third-down failures with successful fourth-down plunges -- it certainly felt as though the Panthers couldn't get Atlanta off the field when it mattered most.
Nine teams league-wide have fared worse on third downs through two weeks of the season. But what irked the Panthers most of all was their struggles in third-and-long yardage, as one Falcons scoring drive saw them convert third-and-11 and third-and-7 within 80 seconds of each other.
"That's what you want -- third down and seven-plus (yards to go)," Beason said. "Not getting off the field is demoralizing. But we've got to keep punching and keep playing."
Quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons were particularly destructive out of the shotgun formation, from which he passed 13 times on various downs, completing 10 (76.9 percent) for 109 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
"The dude (Ryan) was getting rid of the ball so fast," said
One shotgun play did end in a takeaway -- a first-quarter
"You get frustrated out there when they keep getting third downs," Marshall said. "We're not doing what we pride ourselves in, which is stopping third down."
By game's end, the Panthers did stiffen on third downs, getting three stops. Two were runs -- the Falcons' only two third-down runs of the day.
"The way we finished the game up is probably the best we played (on defense) all year," Lewis said. "Those last two series were awesome. We came out and played really good, sound football on those two series."
It was a strong, albeit fruitless, finish.
"We played a (heck) of a lot better than we played (in the 38-10 loss to the Eagles) any way you want to turn it," Lewis said. "So we've got a lot of stuff to be positive about and can build off of.
"All we've got to do is continue to get better every week and it's going to turn around. It's no time to panic. We've got 14 games to go."
BUT HAVING SO MANY GAMES LEFT also underscores just how injury-plagued the Panthers have been this year.
SPLIT SECONDS: Weakside linebacker