CHARLOTTE – Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski liked a lot of what he saw from quarterback Cam Newton in Sunday's 30-28 loss to Atlanta.
"He did a lot of good things and showed progress in a lot of areas," Chudzinski said. "In the passing game with some of the decisions he was making, getting to secondary receivers and not forcing things. Running – scrambling when he needed to, and then the decisions he made as far as some of the read (option) stuff was really good."
Newton, who threw for 215 yards and two scores, posted a 119.3 passer rating. He also set a new career-high for rushing yards with 86 yards on nine attempts, surpassing the 71-yard outing he recorded against New Orleans two weeks ago.
"A lot of really good things happen when he runs," Chudzinski said. "It's something that he does so well. He can help you get positive yards in the run game whether it's designed runs or scrambles."
One of those instinctual runs came in the third quarter, with the Panthers facing third-and-8 from the Atlanta 19-yard line.
Newton took the shotgun snap and immediately detected a blitz coming with the Falcons playing man coverage, so he located a seam straight up the middle, and ran for 15 yards. Newton ran for a 4-yard touchdown on the next play.
"It was man coverage so everybody turned back and was running in man, and Mike (Tolbert) stepped up and took on the blitzer," Chudzinksi said. "It just opened up in front of him. Cam did a good job of seeing that and going and making a play."
Overall, it was a productive day for Chudzinski's offense, but it wasn't enough to edge the now 4-0 Falcons.
"We had our chances, and that was a game that we could have won. We didn't," Chudzinski said. "But in this league you can't dwell on the past. You make the corrections and move on. We're making progress in some areas, and guys have really worked to correct the mistakes and some of the issues we had earlier. Hopefully that'll continue."
The Panthers secondary wanted to keep everything in front of it last Sunday against the high-powered Falcons, particularly in the game's final minute.
But that didn't happen, and Atlanta rallied back for the victory.
"The guys played hard, they battled against a good unit, and we came up short," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "We gave ourselves a chance up until the very end."
McDermott lauded the relentless effort of the defensive line, which sacked Matt Ryan seven times.
"They showed great intensity, great passion, and you saw Charles (Johnson) up his game even more," McDermott said. "My challenge to them is to do that every week, no matter who you play, no matter where you play. I was very impressed, very happy with what they did. That said, it wasn't perfect, and we have some things to work out there as well."
After losing two fumbles in Week 3 against the Giants, rookie return man Joe Adams was inactive for the first time last week.
Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares took his place as the team's kick returner, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn stepped in to return punts.
"Kealoha hit it downhill. He is a straight-line guy," head coach Ron Rivera said. "You would love a kid like Joe Adams to be able to do that because of his ability to really, at any point, break one."
Munnerlyn was tabbed to return to punts largely because of his running style.
"We went with Captain because he runs bigger, he's a little more stout, a little harder to bring down. He has the same mentality to catch and get what we can," Rivera said. "That was really the attitude we went into the game with both our returners.
"Talking with (special teams coordinator) Brian Murphy, we felt both guys catching the ball and going forward was a lot better at this point. Instead of trying to make something happen, let's hit it downhill and take what we can get."