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Know Your Foe: Atlanta Falcons

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CHARLOTTE – The Panthers return to more friendly Carolina confines after three weeks on the road to take on the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium this Sunday.

The 1:00 p.m. EST matchup pits Carolina (1-12), coming off a 28-6 loss to the New Orleans Saints, against the 6-7 Falcons, who were defeated 29-25 at home last week by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The game is set to air on FOX.

The Panthers and Falcons have met 57 times in the regular season, with Atlanta leading the series 29-28. More on the series history can be found here.

Here's what to know about the Falcons:

Rookie Rusher

Rookie Bijan Robinson is making a name for himself as one of the most dynamic weapons in the NFL. 

Last week, Robinson recorded 88 yards from scrimmage (54 receiving, 34 rushing) and one rushing touchdown. He's also scored at least one touchdown in three of the past four games. One touchdown this weekend would tie Julio Jones (eight) for the third-most touchdowns by a rookie in Falcons history.

Robinson also currently leads all rookies with 790 rushing yards and is tied for second among all rookies with seven total touchdowns this season. His 1,110 yards from scrimmage rank second among all rookies, behind Rams WR Puka Nacua.

All that is to say, the eighth-overall draft pick has blossomed into the engine of this Atlanta offense.


Ridder's Getting it Done Late

Second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder is coming on strong of late, as the Cincinnati product recorded a career-high 347 passing yards in Week 14 against the Buccaneers. And on the season, he's completed 212-of-334 passes (63.5 percent) for 2,376 yards and 14 total touchdowns (nine passing, five rushing) for an 82.4 passer rating in 12 games this season

The biggest note for Ridder might be his fourth-quarter performance, as he currently ranks fourth among qualified passers in passer rating in the final stanza. Only San Francisco's Brock Purdy (117.9), Dallas' Dak Prescott (102.8) and the Broncos' Russell Wilson (102.1) have a higher passer rating in the fourth quarter this season.

Additionally, Ridder ranks second in yards per attempt in the fourth quarter at 10.1. Only Purdy (10.2) has pushed the ball down the field at a higher rate in the fourth quarter this season.

The Panthers will have to finish strong to knock Ridder off his fourth-quarter game.


Breakout Bates

Named a team captain in his first season with Atlanta, safety Jessie Bates has recorded 101 total tackles (67 solo), his fourth season with triple-digit stops, nine passes defensed, a career-high five interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown, three forced fumbles, two tackles for loss and one quarterback hit in 2023.

Two of those interceptions came in Week 1 against the Panthers, a game in which he also forced a fumble and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. 

The former Cincinnati Bengal is just one of three players with at least 100 tackles, five interceptions and three forced fumbles in a season since 2000, joining Terrell Thomas in 2010 with the Giants and Odell Thurman in 2005 with the Bengals.

Carolina is 21-35 all-time against Atlanta dating all the way back to 1995.