A Not So Merry Christmas
Before Saturday, the Panthers were 5-0 in games played just before Christmas during the Ron Rivera era. Four of those were at Bank of America Stadium with a combined score of 99-49.
Being home for the holidays didn’t work out so well this time.
Carolina was outclassed from the start by Atlanta, who inched closer to clinching the NFC South title with a 33-16 Christmas Eve win.
The Falcons were actually the last and only team to hand Rivera a home loss in December. That 31-23 defeat came all the way back in 2011.
So Saturday’s performance, which included too many moments of suspect effort, snapped Carolina’s 11-game, post-November regular-season home win streak at 11.
After quarterback Cam Newton snapped his slump of four straight games with a completion percentage below 50, he was all over the place on Saturday.
Newton was on-target on just 18 of his 43 passes, and while there were at least two or three drops in there, it was easily one of his worst days as a Panther.
The reigning MVP threw two interceptions in the first half for the first time this season and his 44.5 passer rating was the third-worst of his career (39.4 vs NO, 10/30/14; 40.6 vs NYG, 9/20/12).
Meanwhile, On the Other Side …
If Matt Ryan is named NFL MVP, he should send a thank-you note to the Panthers’ defense.
After completing 26 of his 32 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns Saturday, here’s his two-game total against Carolina in 2016: 54/69 (78.2 percent), 778 yards, six touchdowns, one interception.
Ryan didn’t go off for 503 yards, and receiver Julio Jones had just four catches for 60 yards, but it’s not like the Panthers forced them to have to do much more.