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Panthers good now at winning close ones

Every Carolina Panthers coach, player and fan undoubtedly would like the team to blow out an opponent. We don’t know if they’re capable. But, man, they are good at winning close games.

•  Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked at least nine times Sunday. I say at least because the team’s marching band trots onto the field on occasion, and I thought I saw the guy with the snare drum sprint past a tackle, roll over a guard and take Ryan down.

•  Panthers fans, your team salutes you. “It was crazy,” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy says about the Panther presence in the Georgia Dome. “You see all that blue out there, just an ocean of red and blue. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. Come to a different state and take over a stadium. And I loved it. I raised my hands and it gets loud…just cheers of affection and love and it feels great. And it gives you energy and excitement.” Hardy says he looked at Panther fans and asked, “Are you not entertained? I got to give you a little more.” With four sacks, he did.

•  Late first half, second and 10 from the Atlanta 20, and Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert gets the ball and room to move. The 245-pound Tolbert rams into Atlanta defenders like a wrecking ball hitting an old building, a bowling ball hitting a pin, a 90 mph baseball hitting a bamboo bat. Those defenders went for a ride. As Tolbert returns to the huddle he brushes imaginary dust off his jersey. Brushing off tacklers looked similarly easy.

•  Is there a Panther player or coach or, I don’t know, owner, you’d like to read about? If you have a candidate, let me know. And have fun with the playoffs. Don’t manufacture reasons to worry. If you’re a fan, this is what you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve stuck with the team, you earned this.

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