Carolina Panthers

Falcons’ Julio Jones strikes early, often in 48-33 win over Panthers

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney (93) in the first half at the Georgia Dome on Sunday.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney (93) in the first half at the Georgia Dome on Sunday. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Julio Jones should end up in the nightmares of numerous Carolina Panthers defensive backs after Sunday.

The Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver dominated with 12 catches for 300 yards, including a 75-yard hookup with quarterback Matt Ryan for a touchdown, in Atlanta’s 48-33 victory at the Georgia Dome.

The Panthers closed the gap to 41-33 late in the game before Falcons cornerback Robert Alford returned an interception of Derek Anderson for a touchdown with 1 minute, 14 seconds left.

The loss dropped the reigning NFC Champion Panthers to 1-3, and the costs of this one could linger. In the fourth quarter quarterback Cam Newton was taken to the locker room for a concussion evaluation. That was after Newton was staggered in goal-line collison with Falcons linebacker Deion Jones.

Newton pulled up on the run, was hit hard by Jones, then caught his balance and fell forward for a touchdown. There appeared to be helmet-to-helmet contact on the play, but the NFL tends to treat such collisions differently when a quarterback is running rather than attempting a pass.

The Panthers confirmed after the game that Newton had suffered a concussion.

Jones was covered by most of the Panthers’ secondary at one time or another and it made little difference who was in coverage. Only once in the first half did Jones not make a catch when targeted by Ryan, who finished 28 of 37 passes for 503 yards, four touchdowns and an interception.

Jones became the first player in NFL history to have two career games of 250 or more receiving yards.

Ryan’s passing yardage tied him for the 17th-best such game in NFL history. Jones’s game was the sixth-most receiving yards in league history. The Falcons are 3-1.

Newton completed 14 of 25 passes for a touchdown and no interceptions. He was sacked once for an 8-yard loss.

The Panthers next host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Monday Night Football matchup Oct. 10. That shapes up to be something approaching a must-win for the Panthers to stay in contention for the NFC South championship. The Panthers have won the past three divisional championships.

Three who mattered

Julio Jones: First matched against James Bradberry and then against Daryl Worley, Jones demonstrated the danger in attempting to defend an elite wide receiver with rookie cornerbacks. Jones later beat Bené Benwikere for a long second-quarter gain.

Matt Ryan: That first Falcons drive demonstrated why Ryan was named NFC Player of the Month. It was predictable Ryan would hurt the Panthers with his arm, but that 15-yard scramble was big as well.

Andy Lee: His precision punting allowed the Panthers to down three of his first-half deliveres at the three or closer to the end zone without a touchback.

Observations

▪  It was a good start for Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. when he grabbed a high pass on the first play from scrimmage. Ginn’s hands aren’t all that reliable, but he offers other advantages in speed and guile.

▪  Newton got a taunting penalty in his hometown early in this game, flipping a ball at Jones on the Panthers’ first possession. The 15-yard penalty derailed the drive.

▪  The Georgia Dome is nearing the end of its existence. Atlanta got its money’s worth, between the Falcons, the SEC football championships, SEC basketball tournaments and two Super Bowls.

▪  Kurt Coleman gets credit for the pick-6 in the second quarter, and he had great reflexes, but Thomas Davis’ deflection was key. This was Georgia native Davis’s last game at the Georgia Dome.

▪  Davis tweaked his left hamstring in the third quarter. After playing briefly, he sat out the rest of the game.

Worth mentioning

▪  That was one exceptional saxophone rendition for the national anthem.

▪  Wondering what happens to the land the Georgia Dome is on once the new stadium opens? It will mostly become a grass tailgating area. Some of that land will be the site of a new hotel.

▪  Panthers tight end Greg Olsen’s first catch of this game came early in the fourth quarter. He did catch a touchdown pass with about four minutes left from backup quarterback Derek Anderson. Olsen then caught a pass for a two-point conversion.

They said it

“It’s not time to panic. We’ve been here before.” – Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

“That’d be great!” – Jones, when asked if he thought any other teams would try to cover him one-on-one this season.

“They both come early and stay late. They totally rely and count on each other. That’s the kind of chemistry we count on.” – Falcons coach Dan Quinn on Ryan and Jones.

Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell

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