Panthers vs. Falcons: 5 Things We Learned from Atlanta's 31-17 Win

Mike Foster@michaelsfosterCorrespondent IOctober 16, 2011

Panthers vs. Falcons: 5 Things We Learned from Atlanta's 31-17 Win

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    The Falcons once again found themselves in a trying battle Sunday, needing a fourth-quarter rally to defeat their division rival Carolina Panthers 31-17 in front of fans at the Georgia Dome.

    Michael Turner, who had struggled in previous weeks with his aggressive running game, finally came alive and led the Falcons to a solid victory.

    Carolina, who had been nothing of a pushover in their first five games despite a 1-4 record entering the contest, gave the Falcons all they could handle.

    Cam Newton, who was making a homecoming back to his home city, had another impressive rookie performance despite three interceptions.

    Those three interceptions might have won the Falcons the game.

    It surely is a breath of fresh air to see the Falcons win decisively, especially within the division, but there are still some things that need to be ironed out if this team is going to make a run for the playoffs.

    Here are five things we learned from the Sunday's game.

Michael Turner Can Be Productive When the Offense Commits to Running

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    Fans saw a lot of good things from the MARTA bus on Sunday.

    Michael Turner, who had been struggling to make it past the line of scrimmage during the first quarter of the season, shined in the Falcons victory with 27 carries for 139 yards.

    He also had a long run of 33 yards, which was good to see from an offense that wasn't getting big plays for its ground attack.

    Atlanta also appeared to make more of an effort to run outside of the tackles. Running inside had failed the Falcons over and over, so against Carolina, they focused on getting Turner running against defensive backs on the outside.

    The slight change in strategy definitely improved the Falcons' running production. Turner broke tackles from defensive backs all game.

Roddy White Continues to Stay Quiet

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    Roddy White has been quiet so far this year, and he was M.I.A. against Carolina on Sunday.

    White had just two receptions for 21 yards and no touchdowns despite the team's victory.

    He only has two touchdown grabs for the season and just 34 receptions in six games.

    Teams are obviously focusing on his presence much more, and Carolina benefited from the absence of Julio Jones.

    White was also interfered with twice with chances to haul in deep touchdown passes.

Atlanta's Defensive Line Has Continued to Struggle

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    Big time free-agent signee Ray Edwards registered a sack in his second consecutive game on Sunday, but the Falcons' overall pass rush has continued to struggle.

    John Abraham has definitely had problems getting quarterbacks down, as has the rest of the defensive front.

    A lot of times, the Falcons are getting hands on the quarterback, but not getting the quarterback to the turf.

    Atlanta just appears to be a tad too slow off the ball and is struggling with getting push. Carolina's offensive line, to their credit, has been impressive so far this year.

    The Falcons might need to find more creative ways to bring pressure, because their regular pass rush of Edwards, Babineaux, Peters and Abraham wasn't as dominating today as it should have been.

Cam Newton Will Have a Long NFL Career

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    The Falcons finally found a way to keep a quarterback's QBR under 90.0. In fact, Cam Newton finished with a rating of 44.6 on Sunday against Atlanta.

    That statistic is in part thanks to three interceptions from the Falcons secondary. But Newton continued to impress his opponents and viewers with his composure and playmaking ability.

    He completed 21 of 35 passes 237 yards, and also led the team in rushing with 50 yards on six carries.

    Newton gave the Panthers a 17-14 lead with a touchdown run late in the third quarter.

    His season so far has been very impressive, and he continues to prove he's just as dangerous as a passer as he is a runner.

    Newton definitely made a positive splash in his hometown.

The Defense Needs to Be More Consistent

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    Three interceptions really helped out the Falcons on Sunday, especially considering two of them were made in the end zone.

    But, Atlanta's rush and pass defense has been wildly inconsistent throughout the season.

    If you watch the Falcons for a few minutes, you might think to yourself, "Man, that defense looks stout."

    But, watch for any longer, and you will see how the Falcons seemingly trade every impressive defensive play with an equally woeful one.

    Too often receivers are left way too open, which has been an issue since Week 1. The Falcons need to find a way to be more aggressive and imposing on a regular basis.