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Panthers-Falcons Postgame Notes

Posted Dec 11, 2011

The Series: With the 31-23 victory, Atlanta swept the season series with Carolina and leads the all-time series 22-12. The Panthers lost to the Falcons, 31-17, earlier this year at the Georgia Dome (10/16/11).

For Starters: The Panthers featured a new set of defensive tackles after placing Sione Fua and Terrell McClain on injured reserve (12/6/11). Rookie Frank Kearse made his first NFL start, and second-year defensive tackle Andre Neblett started for the second consecutive game after opening in place of Fua at Tampa Bay (12/4/11). Kearse has played in three games and been inactive for eight others since being signed by the Panthers from the Miami Dolphins' practice squad (9/20/11). It represented Neblett's third career start after also being in the lineup at Pittsburgh (12/23/10).

Offensively, Carolina shuffled the left side of the offensive line with Jordan Gross inactive because of a sprained ankle sustained at Tampa Bay (12/4). Travelle Wharton moved from left guard to left tackle, where he started 33 games from 2005-07 and the final seven games in 2009. Fourth-year pro Mackenzy Bernadeau was inserted at left guard, where he has made 15 of his 20 career starts.

A shoulder injury to center Ryan Kalil in the third quarter forced the Panthers to make additional changes along the offensive front. Right guard Geoff Hangartner shifted to center, and undrafted rookie free agent Bryant Browning, who was inactive last week at Tampa Bay (12/4/11) after being signed off of the practice squad (12/2/11), made his NFL debut at right guard. Kalil returned on the Panthers' next series.

Smith Receives Milestone: Wide receiver Steve Smith posted 125 yards on a team-high six catches to become the 35th player in NFL history to amass 10,000 receiving yards with 10,101. The 11-year veteran reached the milestone on a 16-yard reception at the beginning of the second quarter.

He generated his sixth 100-yard receiving effort this season. Smith previously compiled 178 yards at Arizona (9/11/11), 156 yards versus Green Bay (9/18/11), 181 yards at Chicago (10/2/11), 143 yards versus Washington (10/23/11) and 100 yards versus Minnesota (10/30/11). The 181 yards are the third-highest total of his career behind a team-record 201 yards versus Minnesota (10/30/05) and 189 yards at Baltimore (10/15/06).

Smith, who entered the game tied for second in the NFL and tied for first in the NFC in receiving yards, leads the Panthers with 67 receptions for 1,217 yards and five touchdowns this season. This marks the sixth time in Smith's career that he has reached the 1,000-yard receiving plateau, previously racking up 1,110 yards in 2003, a team-record 1,563 in 2005, 1,166 in 2006, 1,002 in 2007 and 1,421 in 2008.

A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he ranks first in team history with 65 total touchdowns (57 receiving, 6 return, 2 rush), 57 receiving touchdowns, 10,101 receiving yards, 14.70 receiving average, and 38 games with 100 or more receiving yards. Smith stands second with 687 receptions (needs 10 catches to pass Muhsin Muhammad for the most in team history) and 394 points scored.

Offensive Line Paves The Way: Behind an offensive line featuring Travelle Wharton at left tackle, Mackenzy Bernadeau at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Geoff Hangartner at right guard and Byron Bell at right tackle, the Panthers accumulated 157 yards rushing on 23 attempts - an average of 6.8 yards per carry - with one touchdown against the NFL's fifth-rated rushing defense. The Falcons entered the game allowing 90.0 yards per game and 3.7 yards per carry.

The front five has helped Carolina total more than 100 yards rushing in a franchise-record 11 consecutive games. The Panthers have exceeded 100 yards on the ground with 107 versus Jacksonville (9/25/11), 169 at Chicago (10/2/11), 162 versus New Orleans (10/9/11), 139 at Atlanta (10/16/11), 175 versus Washington (10/23/11), 140 versus Minnesota (10/30/11), 113 versus Tennessee (11/13/11), 137 at Detroit (11/20/11), a season-high 201 at Indianapolis (11/27/11) and 163 at Tampa Bay (12/4/11) in addition to the 157 versus Atlanta.

The Panthers, who began the game ranked fifth in the NFL in rushing and second in rushing yards per attempt, are averaging 139.1 yards per game and 5.1 yards per attempt.

Williams Carries The Load: Running back DeAngelo Williams tallied a team-high 87 yards and one touchdown on seven carries. He established a team record with a 74-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, surpassing the previous long of a 70-yard scoring scamper by DeShaun Foster at Atlanta (1/1/06) and bettering his previous long touchdown run of 69 yards, accomplished twice - most recently versus New Orleans (10/9/11). Williams is responsible for the three longest runs in team history: 77 yards at Arizona (11/1/09), 75 yards at Arizona (10/14/07) and 74 yards versus Atlanta (12/11/11).

Williams leads the Panthers with 656 yards and four touchdowns on 126 attempts this season. He ranks as the franchise's all-time leader with 967 rushing attempts, 4,867 rushing yards, 35 rushing touchdowns, 5.03-yard rushing average and 16 games with 100 or more rushing yards. Additionally, Williams is the only player in team history with 1,000 career rushing yards and 1,000 career receiving yards, accumulating 4,867 on the ground and 1,019 through the air.

Streaking: Tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Steve Smith extended their consecutive game streaks with a catch. Shockey finished with two receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown and has caught a pass in all 133 regular season games he has played. Smith, meanwhile, has made a catch in a team-record 72 consecutive games. He also produced a catch in 52 consecutive games from 2002-06, the third-longest streak in team history.

Dynamic Duo: Tight ends Greg Olsen and Jeremy Shockey combined for four receptions and 63 yards and two touchdowns. Through 13 games, Olsen ranks second on the team with 43 catches for 525 yards and five touchdowns, and Shockey is sixth with 30 receptions for 388 yards and two touchdowns. Along with Richie Brockel, they have caught 74 passes for 918 yards and seven touchdowns. That represents the most productive season by a set of Panthers tight ends in team history in terms of catches and yardage, ahead of the 1999 group that tallied 69 receptions, 873 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.

Newton By Air: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton completed 19-of-39 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions to compile a 67.9 quarterback rating. He threw touchdown passes of six yards to tight end Jeremy Shockey and 44 yards to tight end Greg Olsen in the second quarter.

The starter in all 13 games, Newton has completed 270-of-452 passes for 3,573 yards - the second most by a rookie in NFL history - and 15 touchdowns with 16 interceptions to post an 81.1 quarterback rating. The NFL record for the most passing yards by a rookie is 3,739 by Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. The 3,573 passing yards and 15 touchdown pass are the most by a rookie in Panthers history, surpassing the 2,931 yards by Chris Weinke in 2001 and 14 touchdowns by Kerry Collins in 1995.

Newton has passed for 300 or more yards in three games, producing three of the top four single-game passing totals in team history. He threw a touchdown in each of the first five games - the longest streak by a rookie quarterback in team history - bettering Weinke's four consecutive games with a touchdown pass in 2001.

Newton By Ground: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton posted 36 rushing yards on seven attempts. He has rushed for 554 yards and a team-leading 13 touchdowns - the second most in the NFL this season - on 107 carries. Newton's 13 rushing touchdowns are the most by a quarterback in NFL history and the second most in franchise history, five behind the team record of 18 by DeAngelo Williams in 2008. Additionally, his rushing yardage and rushing touchdown totals are the most in a season by a Panthers quarterback, eclipsing the previous highs of 128 yards and six touchdowns by Chris Weinke in 2001.

Takeaway/Giveaway: Carolina did not force any turnovers but turned the ball over twice on two interceptions to finish with a minus-two turnover ratio. The two giveaways led to seven points for Atlanta. The Panthers have a negative-five turnover ratio this season, compiling a 4-0 record when having a positive turnover margin, an 0-5 record when being even in turnover margin, and an 0-4 record when having a negative turnover margin.

Sakrete Sacks: The Panthers collected three sacks against Atlanta. Defensive end Antwan Applewhite tackled Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan in the end zone for an eight-yard loss that resulted in a safety in the second quarter. It represented Carolina's second safety this season, previously accomplished by defensive end Greg Hardy versus Jacksonville (9/25/11), and the 11th in franchise history.

Defensive tackle Jason Shirley gathered his first career sack, dropping Ryan for a loss of no yards and forcing a fumble on the same play in the second quarter. Shirley was signed to the Panthers' active roster from the practice squad on Wednesday and played for the first time since appearing in three games as a rookie with Cincinnati in 2008.

Linebacker James Anderson and defensive end Charles Johnson teamed to bring down Ryan for a four-yard loss in the third quarter. Johnson leads the team with nine sacks this year and has produced 17 sacks in his last 20 games dating back to last season.

During the 2011 season, Sakrete, a leader in concrete and concrete-related products, is donating $100 to the BVC Playground Build for every sack Carolina records. Through 13 games, the Panthers have 26 sacks, raising $2,600.

Inactives: The following seven players were inactive for the Panthers: wide receiver Darvin Adams, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, tackle Jordan Gross, cornerback Brandon Hogan, defensive end Eric Norwood, linebacker Jason Phillips, and linebacker Kion Wilson.