Tom Sorensen

The biggest reason the Panthers deserve to be 1-3 is ...

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) was sacked three times on Sunday, but other than those special occasions he had all the time he needed to throw against the Carolina Panthers.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) was sacked three times on Sunday, but other than those special occasions he had all the time he needed to throw against the Carolina Panthers. Getty Images

When the defensive line can’t get to a quarterback, proponents (players and coaches) often claim that if we knew more about football we’d understand that when the quarterback quickly gets rid of the ball sacks rarely ensue.

But Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons didn’t run a West Coast offense against the Carolina Panthers Sunday. He ran a Run the Panthers off the Artificial Turf offense. And as terrible as the secondary was in the 48-33 loss, Carolina rarely generated pressure. Give any quarterback time to throw and he’ll hurt you.

In Carolina’s past two losses, to Minnesota and then Atlanta, the Panthers’ defensive line was outplayed by their opponent’s offensive line and their offensive line was outplayed by their opponent’s defensive line. Because Carolina’s offensive line was handled by the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl, we tend to believe that line was substandard last season. We’re wrong. The line was substandard in the Super Bowl. But it was one of the NFL’s best.

Ryan threw 37 passes for a staggering 503 yards. Yes, he was sacked three times. But except for those special occasions, he routinely had time to set up in the pocket and throw.

Left tackle Michael Oher, the second best Carolina lineman behind Ryan Kalil, didn’t announce last week until Friday that his head bothered him. It should have; he was concussed. Because he couldn't play, the team had to quickly rearrange a line that already had been struggling.

If a team can’t get to the opponent’s quarterback, and struggles to protect its own, it deserves to be 1-3. The Panthers do, and are.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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