Carolina Panthers Week 6 Report: Who's Up And Down After Loss to Atlanta Falcons
The Panthers dropped another game in the NFC South standings and every week, we're getting a better idea of what this team's identity is.
The offense is running on all cylinders, but the defense is far from where head coach Ron Rivera is used to.
He coached the NFL's top defense last season, so adjusting to a team that allows over 140 yards on the ground per game is a huge change for him.
The situation has escalated to the point where Rivera is considering implementing the 3-4 into the Panthers' defensive game-plan.
Here's an update on which players impressed and which faded in the Panthers' 31-17 loss in Atlanta.
UP: Tight Ends Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen
Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olsen have truly proven to be security blankets for Cam Newton.
When he does go to his trusty tight ends, he is very efficient and few passes hit the turf.
The Panthers played extremely well on third downs and that is due in huge part to these two guys.
Teams that go 8-12 on third downs will typically come out on top.
Having a pair of tight ends that combine for around 10 receptions and over 100 yards with consistency, provides an integral piece to a successful offense.
UP: Cornerback Chris Gamble
Any time you limit one of the NFL's best receivers to two receptions and 21 yards, you deserve some major recognition.
Gamble did that Sunday—in fact, he only allowed one catch to White, the other was on Darius Butler.
Gamble is quietly proving to be one of the top players on this team, which is a good sign after he spent most of 2010 in John Fox's doghouse.
If you were afraid that he wasn't living up to his huge contract, think again, he's been playing stellar as of late.
DOWN: Kick Returner Kealoha Pilares
That's not Kealoha Pilares—it's Mike Goodson, the real reason why the Panthers special teams are struggling right now.
Goodson is a spectacular returner, but his fumbling issues proved to be too costly to the team and he has lost his spot as the team's kick returner.
Goodson's replacement, rookie Kealoha Pilares, has been sub par to say the least.
He simply doesn't have the desired traits for a kick returner—speed, elusiveness, vision, balance.
Pilares has been unable to break off a big return.
It's time to give Goodson another shot. At this point, it's become an advantage for the Panthers to have their opponent boot it out of the end zone rather than have Pilares run it out.
DOWN: Middle Linebacker Dan Connor
Connor is the man who's replacing the Panthers' star linebacker Jon Beason
While Conner has played better than almost any backup linebacker in the league would in this situation, he has to accept some blame for this loss.
Connor was a huge liability in pass coverage. Tony Gonzalez, one of the oldest tight ends in the league, made Connor look a fool with a simple hook route.
Gonzalez is not shifty in the least sense, so you can only imagine how stiff Connor is in coverage.
Ovie Mughelli also outran Connor on a crossing route that Jon Beason might have even picked off.
Connor had more than enough time to react, but Mughelli shook him off and ran for the first down.
DOWN: Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn
Captain Munnerlyn is a physical cornerback who does a solid job in zone coverage, but he was burnt on multiple occasions on Sunday and it's becoming a repeating issue.
It would be easy to blame Munnerlyn solely for the loss, in fact, based on a single play.
The Falcons had the ball near midfield on third and 12.
Harry Douglas ran a crossing route and Munnerlyn was simply outrun. Douglas caught the pass and ran 34 yards to set up an eventual game winning touchdown.
Captain has to make that play in the future. If he had, the Panthers could be standing at 2-4 right now.