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Monday Brew: Run defense stands out against Falcons

Chris Tabor

CHARLOTTE — Panthers interim coach Chris Tabor obviously liked the way his special teams guys performed in Sunday's 9-7 win over the Falcons.

But as he looked back over the win, he said he was particularly encouraged by the way both lines showed up in the rain-soaked conditions.

While the protection for quarterback Bryce Young was better, and they continued to run the ball well, that extended to the other side of the ball as well.

"I thought our defensive line really played on the other side of the line of scrimmage," Tabor said Monday. "I thought those guys, the movement and the physicality with which they played was outstanding."

The Panthers got the turnovers they had been trying to create on defense, which was necessary on Sunday. But the run defense was exceptional.

Run defense

The Falcons entered the game sixth in the league in rushing (132.2 yards per game) and 15th in yards per rush attempt (4.2), but didn't approach either number Sunday.

The Panthers limited Atlanta to 52 yards on 31 carries (1.68 yards per rush).

That's the third-lowest rushing average allowed in a game in franchise history, trailing just the 1.11 allowed at Philadelphia in 1996 and the 1.61 allowed against the Eagles in 2014. Both those games against the Eagles were losses.

"I think what we give up 1.7 yards per carry, on a lot of carries," Tabor said. "It wasn't just like there were three or four carries.

"So our defensive line, I thought, played really, really well."

The Falcons also threw for just 152 yards, and more than half of that came on two plays: a 56-yarder to tight end Jonnu Smith and a 24-yarder to Kyle Pitts.

— The Panthers had a seasonal illness roll through the locker room last week, with a number of players in and out of practice all week. Then backup tackle David Sharpe was a late scratch Sunday morning with the same designation.

Tabor noted that was "going around" and that Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo was ill late in the week and sequestered from the team as they traveled here.

"You just try to do it as simple as it is: Wash your hands, cover your mouth, stay away, some spacing, those types of things. "That's kind of what we're into right now, and hopefully, we'll get over this flu bug. But that's always tough to beat."

Tabor said when players turn up feeling poorly, they'll either send them home to keep from becoming a super-spreader or hand them a mask and have them sit in the back of the meeting room.

"Obviously, our training staff does a good job of assessing where they're at with regards to the illness and whether or not they may be either a need to go home or mask them and just kind of move them and get them away from people," he said.

— Tabor has a very matter-of-fact bearing about most things, so he shrugged Monday when someone asked about owner David Tepper's presence in the locker room after the game. Tabor said, "It was business as usual," and that "he was excited about the win, excited about the guys."

Tabor was then asked if Tepper had offered any assurances he'd get to interview for the head coaching vacancy.

"Never even thought about that," he replied. "My next process after this will be getting right into Green Bay. So that's where all my attention will be."

— As strange and unusual as Sunday's game was — and it was very strange and highly unusual — it was not unprecedented.

It was actually the fourth time in franchise history the Panthers have won without scoring a touchdown and the second time they beat the Falcons by scoring three field goals.

Who can ever forget the 1997 rock fight in the Georgia Dome, in which all three of John Kasay's field goals came in the fourth quarter?

The Panthers also beat the Buccaneers 12-9 in Tampa in 2003 (the multiple blocked kick overtime game) and beat the Bills 9-3 here in 2017.

Panthers fans braved the elements on a rain-soaked afternoon at Bank of America Stadium to watch their team defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

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