The Series: With the 28-19 victory, Carolina earned a split of the season-series with Atlanta, who leads the all-time series 18-12. The Panthers lost to the Falcons, 28-20, earlier this year at the Georgia Dome (9/20/09). Since 1995, Carolina and Atlanta have split the season series eight times, and one of the two clubs has swept the season series on seven occasions.
Inactives: The following eight players were inactive for the Panthers: quarterback A.J. Feeley (third quarterback), safety Charles Godfrey, running back Mike Goodson, defensive tackle Nick Hayden, fullback Brad Hoover, guard Duke Robinson, defensive end Hilee Taylor and tackle Garry Williams.
For Starters: Defensively, Charles Johnson started at defensive end for Julius Peppers, who was limited by a hand injury suffered at New Orleans (11/8/09). It marked Johnson's third-career start and first since opening the last two games of the 2007 season. Landon Johnson took over starting duties at weakside linebacker for Thomas Davis, who was placed on injured reserve (11/10/09) with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Rookie Sherrod Martin made his third consecutive start at free safety in place of Charles Godfrey, who was sidelined with an ankle injury sustained versus Buffalo (10/25/09).
Offensively, rookie Tony Fiammetta replaced Brad Hoover, who did not play because of an ankle injury suffered at Arizona (11/1/09), in the starting lineup at fullback. The start was the second of Fiammetta's career after also starting versus Buffalo (10/25/09). Tight end Gary Barnidge started his third game of the season as the Panthers began in a two-tight end set.
Offensive Line Shuffle: When Jordan Gross left the game with a broken ankle in the second quarter, Travelle Wharton moved to left tackle from left guard, and Mackenzy Bernadeau was inserted at left guard. Wharton previously started all 16 games at left tackle for Carolina in 2005 and 2007 and the 2006 regular-season opener. Other than short-yardage situations where Bernadeau had played as an extra offensive lineman this year, this represented the first extensive action for Bernadeau, who was inactive for 11 games and dressed but did not play in five games as a rookie in 2008.
Unfortunately for Gross, this marked the second consecutive season that an injury sidelined him against the Falcons. Last year versus Atlanta (9/28/08), he suffered a concussion on the fourth play of the game. The injury forced Gross to miss the next game versus Kansas City (10/5/08), ending a streak of 84 consecutive games started.
Gaining Ground: Behind an offensive line featuring Gross and Wharton at left tackle, Wharton and Bernadeau at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Keydrick Vincent at right guard and Jeff Otah at right tackle, the Panthers amassed 185 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns on 34 attempts for an average of 5.4 yards per carry. Carolina is averaging 156.6 yards rushing per game and 4.8 yards per rush this season. In the last five games, the Panthers have rushed for 1,020 yards on 190 attempts for an average of 204.0 yards per game and 5.4 yards per rush.
Double Trouble: Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart combined to rush for 174 yards and two touchdowns on 30 attempts. Williams gained a team-leading 92 yards on 19 carries, and Stewart added 82 yards and two touchdowns - scoring on runs of one-yard in the first quarter and 45 yards in the fourth quarter - on 11 attempts. Stewart established a career long with the 45-yard gallop, surpassing his previous best of 41 yards at Green Bay (11/30/08). Williams leads the Panthers with 860 yards and seven touchdowns on 168 carries this season, and Stewart ranks second with 466 yards and six touchdowns on 98 attempts.
In The Pocket: Quarterback Jake Delhomme completed 15-of-24 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions to produce a season-high 115.8 quarterback rating. He threw two, four-yard touchdowns to wide receiver Steve Smith in the second quarter. In his last four games against the Falcons, Delhomme has completed 81-of-129 passes for 1,092 yards and six touchdowns with one interception to generate a 102.0 quarterback rating. Delhomme has completed 145-of-245 passes for 1,658 yards and seven touchdowns with 13 interceptions this season.
Smitty: Wide receiver Steve Smith scored on two four-yard receptions in the second quarter to move into second place in team history with 46 career receiving touchdowns. He broke a tie with Wesley Walls, who totaled 44 receiving touchdowns from 1996-2002. Smith finished the game with four catches for 34 yards and leads the Panthers with 38 receptions for 512 yards and three touchdowns this season. He ranks first in team history with 54 total touchdowns [46 pass, 6 return, 2 run] and 31 games with 100 or more receiving yards and second with 547 catches, 7,860 receiving yards, 46 receiving touchdowns and 326 points scored.
Moose Tracks: After missing the previous two games with an injured knee, wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad returned to the lineup and paced the Panthers with six receptions for 91 yards. He is second on the team with 30 catches for 310 yards this season.
In The Zone: The Panthers scored on all three of their trips inside the Falcons' 20-yard line, producing three touchdowns. Carolina has been successful on 19-of-25 red zone opportunities, scoring 14 touchdowns and five field goals for a 76.0 percent conversion rate and 56.0 percent touchdown conversion rate this season.
Third Down Yields First Down: The Panthers converted seven-of-13 third downs for a 53.8 percent conversion rate en route to gaining 19 first downs. Carolina started the game ranked 19th in the league with a 38.3 percent third-down conversion rate.
Takeaway/Giveaway: Carolina forced two turnovers on interceptions by safety Sherrod Martin and cornerback Richard Marshall. Martin and Marshall are tied for the team lead with three interceptions this season. The Panthers did not commit any turnovers for the second time this season, previously achieved at Arizona (11/1/09), to finish with a plus-two turnover ratio. The two takeaways resulted in 14 points for Carolina. The Panthers have a negative-seven turnover ratio this season.
Baker's Treat: Punter Jason Baker placed one punt inside the 20 to tie Todd Sauerbrun for first place in team history for the most career punts inside the 20 with 118. He finished the game with a gross average of 44.3 yards and net average of 35.0 yards with one inside the 20, no touchbacks and long of 53 yards on four punts. His gross average fell to 45.8 yards and his net average decreased to 36.2 yards with 12 punts inside the 20, three touchbacks, one block and long of 61 yards this season.
Kasay Kicks Back: Kicker John Kasay connected on all four of his extra-point chances and had a 51-yard field-goal attempt blocked in the third quarter. He has had nine field goals blocked in his career, including two this season. Kasay has been perfect on all 20 of his extra-point opportunities and successful on eight-of-12 field-goal attempts for a team-leading 44 points this season. He has made a team-record 155 consecutive extra points.
Lloyd's of London: Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd placed all five of his kickoffs in the end zone with four touchbacks, helping limit Atlanta to an average kickoff drive start of the 21-yard line. The Falcons only returned one of Lloyd's kickoffs to equal the second-fewest kickoff returns in a game by an opponent - previously accomplished 14 times, most recently versus Washington (10/11/09). Lloyd has reached the end zone on 29-of-38 kickoffs with 17 touchbacks this season.
Claw Marks: Rookie running back Tyrell Sutton handled kickoff return duties for the Panthers. He did not return any kicks as all five of the Falcons' kickoffs were touchbacks. As a result, Carolina tied a team record for the fewest kickoff returns in a game - previously accomplished twice, most recently versus Baltimore (9/8/02)...The Panthers prevented Atlanta from converting a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter when fullback Jason Snelling was tackled short of the goal line following a completion from Matt Ryan. It was the first failed two-point attempt by an opponent since Daunte Culpepper was unsuccessful on a run for Detroit (11/16/08).
Bird Seed: Falcons punter Michael Koenen launched a 70-yard punt to set a record for the longest punt every by an opponent. He surpassed the previous mark of 69 yards by Mitch Berger for New Orleans (12/18/05)...Atlanta defensive end Chauncey Davis blocked a 51-yard field-goal attempt by John Kasay in the third quarter. It was the first blocked field goal by an opponent since Davin Joseph registered one for Tampa Bay (10/18/09).