What We Learned: Panthers vs. Falcons

1. DEFENSE BOUNCED BACK IN BIG WAY: After giving up a season-high 38 points to the Saints last week, the Panthers defense was intent on proving a point Sunday against the Falcons.

They did just that by refusing to allow a single point.

"We were coming off a game where we struggled defensively, and we went out there and made a statement," safety Roman Harper said. "That's all we talked about all week was how bad we wanted to outwork these guys. We wanted to defend our dirt, and we did a great job."

Shutouts don't'happen often in the NFL. For the Panthers, it was their first since a 38-0 win against the Giants in 2013.

"It's huge, I'm not going to lie to you," cornerback Josh Norman said.

"It's a total collective effort. It's special. You don't get that often," safety Kurt Coleman said.

The Falcons finished with 230 total yards. Carolina produced four takeaways, five sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

"It was nothing crazy," defensive end Jared Allen said. "It was just guys doing their job over and over and over."

2. BACKUP DEFENDERS STOOD TALL: Members of the defense were particularly proud of a goal line stand early in the fourth quarter. Several starters were watching from the sideline as Atlanta faced fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line.

Quarterback Matt Ryan completed a pass to wide receiver Roddy White, but a host of defenders stopped White short of the end zone to protect the shutout.

"I mean that fourth down stop just shows the fortitude on this team," Harper said. "I'm just so proud of these guys."

Added Coleman: "That's what this is about. That's something we are going to take from this game. That's our DNA. No matter the situation, we are going to pin our ears back and get after them."

3. OFFENSE, GINN CLICKING: With two long touchdown catches Sunday, wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. has four in the last two games and eight for the season.

Ginn is fully maximizing his big-play potential as a top target for Carolina's offense in 2015. The veteran wideout credits his quarterback without hesitation.

"I give all my success to Cam Newton," Ginn said. "Without him there is no Ted Ginn."

With Newton and Ginn giving defenses fits, the Panthers offense has been on a tear. The Panthers now lead the league in scoring (31.6 points per game) and have scored at least 33 points in four consecutive games.

4. RUN GAME A BIG FACTOR AGAIN: While Ginn credits Newton for his success, tight end Greg Olsen credits Carolina's running game for setting up the passing game to succeed.

"No mistake about it – we're a run-the-ball team. We're going to hand the ball to our backs and our quarterback and let them go, and we've got a great offensive line that can move people," Olsen said. "That's who were are, and then the big strikes in the passing game complement that."

The Panthers topped 100 rushing yards for the 24th consecutive game, a current streak matched stride-for-stride by the Seattle Seahawks that is the longest in the league since 1978.

Jonathan Stewart got 70 of them in the first quarter to close in on 1,000 yards for the season, but that mark will have to wait until next Sunday after he rushed for just 5 yards in the second quarter and didn't play in the second half. He has 989 yards for the season.

"Stew was huge," Olsen said. "I know he didn't play in the second half – we didn't really need him – but I think he had like 70 yards when I looked up at one point in the first quarter.

"He got off to such a fast start, had a couple of long runs, and everything goes off that."

5. GANO TAKES ONE FOR THE TEAM: The way things were going – or rather not going – for the Falcons, return man extraordinaire Devin Hester posed perhaps the greatest threat to the Panthers.

In stepped kicker Graham Gano – kind of.

"I'm glad he didn't score, but I'm sure it looked horrible on film," said Gano, who short-circuited Hester's 35-yard kickoff return to start the second half that looked it could go the distance. "I'll have to see if Luke or TD has a tackling camp. If so, I'll attend it.

"(Stopping Hester) makes me feel good, but Cam told me the truth about the hit. He said it was pretty ugly."

Gano remained on the field for a few seconds after the tackle, leading him to be evaluated in the concussion protocol. He was fine, though, and booted a 38-yard field goal later in the quarter.

"I was laying down a little bit afterwards. I think it was more, 'Holy cow, that was Devin Hester,'" Gano said.

The play typified a complete day for Carolina.

"We played like a team," said tight end Scott Simonson, who recorded his first NFL catch in the victory. "The offense was firing on all cylinders, the defense was playing lights out, and special teams contained probably the best returner in the history of the NFL. There were a lot of good things out there today."

View game action photos from Carolina's 38-0 win over Atlanta.

Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.

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