The Series: With the 31-17 victory, Atlanta defeated Carolina for the fifth time in the last six meetings and leads the all-time series 21-12. The Panthers and Falcons will meet again later this season at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 11.
For Starters: Defensively, linebacker Thomas Williams made his first NFL start and cornerback Darius Butler started for the third consecutive game as Carolina opened in a nickel defense. The Panthers have yet to have the same defensive starting lineup in consecutive games this season, fielding a different starting group in all six contests.
Offensively, undrafted rookie Byron Bell made his second start at right tackle for Jeff Otah, who was inactive with a back injury. Bell also started versus Green Bay (9/18/11) when Otah was inactive with a concussion.
Newton By Air: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton completed 21-of-35 passes to seven different receivers for 237 yards and no touchdowns with a career-high three interceptions to compile a 44.6 quarterback rating. This represented his first game this year without a touchdown pass, ending his team-rookie record streak of five consecutive games with a touchdown pass.
The starter in all six games this season, Newton has completed 134-of-229 passes for 1,847 yards and seven touchdowns with nine interceptions to post a 78.3 quarterback rating. He has passed for 300 yards or more in three games, producing three of the top four single-game passing totals in team history.
Newton By Ground: Rookie quarterback Cam Newton rushed for a team-leading 50 yards and one touchdown on six attempts, scoring on a 14-yard scramble in the third quarter. The 14-yard touchdown run marked the longest in team history by a quarterback, bettering a 12-yard touchdown run by Jake Delhomme at Atlanta (11/23/08).
Newton has rushed for 210 yards and a team-leading six touchdowns on 46 carries this season. His six rushing touchdowns tie for the second-most by a rookie quarterback in a season since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, previously accomplished twice - most recently by Tim Tebow of the Denver Broncos in 2010. Vince Young of the Tennessee Titans holds the record with seven in 2006.
The 210 rushing yards are the most in a season by a Panthers quarterback, bettering the previous high of 128 yards by Chris Weinke in 2001, and the six rushing touchdowns equal the most in a season by a Carolina quarterback, previously accomplished by Weinke in 2001.
Offensive Line Paves The Way: Behind an offensive line featuring Jordan Gross at left tackle, Travelle Wharton at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Geoff Hangartner at right guard, and Byron Bell at right tackle, the Panthers accumulated 142 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 25 attempts - an average of 5.7 yards per carry. The front five has helped Carolina total more than 100 yards rushing in three consecutive games, also exceeding 100 yards on the ground with a season-high 169 at Chicago (10/2/11) and 162 versus New Orleans (10/9/11).
Ground Gains: Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to rush for 92 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts. Williams registered 44 yards on 12 carries and leads the Panthers with 302 yards and one touchdown on 58 attempts this season.
Stewart gained 48 yards on seven carries with one touchdown, bulldozing is way in from one yard out in the second quarter. He added three catches for 24 yards. Stewart is tied for second on the team with 210 yards and one touchdown on 44 attempts this season and is third with a career-high 21 receptions for 210 yards.
On The Receiving End: Tight end Greg Olsen and wide receiver Steve Smith shared the team lead with five receptions each. Olsen, who recorded 42 receiving yards, stands second on the team with 25 catches for 282 yards and three touchdowns this year.
Smith leads the Panthers with 32 receptions for 675 yards and three touchdowns this season. A four-time Pro Bowl selection, he ranks first in team history with 63 total touchdowns (55 receiving, 6 return, 2 rush), 55 receiving touchdowns, 9,559 receiving yards, 14.66 receiving average, and 35 games with 100 or more receiving yards. Smith stands second with 652 receptions (needs 45 catches to surpass Muhsin Muhammad for the most in team history) and 380 points scored.
Streaking: Tight end Jeremy Shockey and wide receiver Steve Smith extended their consecutive game streaks with a catch. Shockey finished the game with four receptions for 60 yards and has caught a pass in all 127 regular season games he has played. Smith, meanwhile, has made a catch in 65 consecutive games, the third-longest streak in team history behind Wesley Walls' 70 games from 1996-2001 and his own 68 games from 2002-06.
Third-Down Efficiency: The Panthers' offense produced a season-high 66.7 percent third-down efficiency rating, converting eight-of-12 third downs. Their success on third down helped them gain 24 first downs - 10 rushing, 12 passing and two by penalty.
Third-Down Inefficiency: However, Carolina's defense allowed Atlanta to convert 63.6 percent of its third-down chances as the Falcons made seven-of-11 third downs. Atlanta picked up 24 first downs - 13 rushing, eight passing and three by penalty. Last week versus New Orleans (10/9/11), the Panthers yielded a 70.6 third-down percentage and 27 first downs.
Takeaway/Giveaway: Carolina did not force any turnovers. The Panthers turned it three times on three interceptions to finish with a minus-three turnover ratio. The three giveaways led to seven points for Atlanta. The Panthers have a negative-five turnover ratio this season, compiling a 1-0 record when having a positive turnover margin, an 0-3 record when being even in turnover margin, and an 0-2 record when having a negative turnover margin.
Sakrete Sacks: The Panthers collected one sack against Atlanta. Defensive end Charles Johnson gathered a sack for the fifth time in six games this season, dropping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan for a four-yard loss in the fourth quarter. He leads Carolina with five sacks this year after recording a team- and career-high 11.5 sacks in 2010. Dating back to last season, Johnson has registered 13 sacks in his last 13 games.
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 six games, the Panthers have gathered nine sacks, raising $900.
The Specialists: Kicker Olindo Mare connected on both of his extra-point chances and his only field goal attempt - converting from 42 yards. He has been successful on 12-of-13 extra point opportunities and nine-of-11 field goal attempts for a team-leading 39 points this season. Mare ranks 15th in NFL history with 337 made field goals and is 18th with 1,459 points scored.
Mare reached the end zone on all four of his kickoffs with three touchbacks, helping to limit the Falcons to average kickoff drive start of the 20-yard line. He has placed 24-of-30 kickoffs in the end zone with 18 touchbacks this season. Since 1997, Mare leads the NFL with 256 touchbacks.
Punter Jason Baker generated a gross average of 40.5 yards and net average of 36.5 yards and long of 41 yards on two punts. His gross average remained at 40.1 yards and his net average improved to 29.7 yards with seven punts inside the 20, four touchbacks and long of 56 yards this season.
Baker is the Panthers' all-time leader with 528 punts and 157 punts inside the 20 and ranks second with a 43.96-yard gross punting average.
Inactives: The following seven players were inactive for the Panthers: tight end Richie Brockel, quarterback Jimmy Clausen, running back Mike Goodson, linebacker Omar Gaither, defensive tackle Andre Neblett, tackle Jeff Otah and cornerback R.J. Stanford.