Dec 8, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas (80) makes a move on Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones (45) in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

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Falcons seek first win vs. Panthers team starting to jell

The Carolina Panthers figured out a few things during the course of the first month of the season. The Atlanta Falcons, however, are in desperate need for some rewarding results before it’s too late.

The NFC South rivals are set to meet Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.

“I think what’s happening is we’re learning more about each other each week,” Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said. “Each week you go out there to play, each week you go out there to practice, each week you come in here and you compete and different things, you learn more about the guy you’re playing with.”

It turns out that the Panthers (2-2) are learning how to win again. After dropping the first two games of the season, extending the franchise’s losing streak to 10 games, the Panthers have strung together two solid performances that have them gaining confidence.

“There is a lot we have to do better,” Carolina coach Matt Rhule said. “We will try to do better. If this is the high point of the season, then we won’t have a very good season.”

The Falcons are off to an 0-4 start after Monday night’s 30-16 road setback to undefeated Green Bay. That outcome resulted in the largest losing margin of the season for Atlanta.

“It really comes down to us,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “We’ve had some opportunities and we haven’t nailed them like we need to. That’s what it’s going to come down to, us not beating ourselves up. … I know we will fix that.”

Yet it was a couple of botched fourth quarters in earlier losses that has put Quinn on the hot seat.

“We just have to turn it up a notch. We have to make something happen,” Falcons running back Todd Gurley said. “Something has to give. Don’t know who on the team has to step up tremendously, but a lot of people are definitely going to have to do that.”

The Panthers have played with urgency the past two games without All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey, who’s likely to miss a couple of more games with an ankle injury. The offense has found production, nonetheless.

“We can’t wait for him to get back,” center Matt Paradis said. “When a guy gets hurt, someone’s got to step up. We’ve got to step up as a whole unit and that’s something that everyone takes seriously, and we can’t wait to get him back.”

Running backs Mike Davis and Reggie Bonnafon have combined to fill some of the void. Yet Bonnafon was placed on the injured list this week with a high ankle sprain.

Carolina’s cause has been aided by an emerging connection between two newcomers on the team. Bridgewater and receiver Robby Anderson have been in sync.

“I definitely feel like every week things get in a better direction,” Anderson said. “Just got to keep working, keep our head down.”

This will be Atlanta’s first game against an NFC South rival, so there will be chances to make headway in the division.

“It hasn’t gone how we want, but nothing has been decided,” Quinn said.

Gurley said: “Whatever we’re doing isn’t enough. We just have to do more, just strain a little bit more. … Let’s just start off with getting one win.”

The Falcons have had good stretches on offense across the first month of the season. Not so much in the Green Bay game when it took until the second half before much clicked.

“We have to do a better job of converting our third-down opportunities,” quarterback Matt Ryan said.

Atlanta’s plight seems more pronounced because standout receiver Julio Jones left Monday night’s game with a first-half hamstring injury and by Wednesday, still hadn’t been back on the practice field. Safety Jaylinn Hawkins hasn’t returned from a concussion. Plus, safety Damontae Kazee is out for the rest of the season with a torn Achilles sustained at Green Bay.

There’s a chance that the Falcons could have defensive end Takk McKinley (groin) back as he took part in limited work on Wednesday. Also, safeties Ricardo Allen (elbow) and Keanu Neal (hamstring) returned to practice. Allen and McKinley have missed the previous two games while Neal missed the Packers game.

Four Panthers were limited in practice Wednesday: LT Russell Okung (groin), CB Donte Jackson (toe), CB Eli Apple (hamstring), and TE Chris Manhertz (ankle).

In the series with Carolina, the Falcons have won five straight and eight of the past nine meetings.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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