Perry Fewell

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Panthers vs. Falcons Caps Emotional Week

Sharon Thorsland
December 07, 2019 - 4:40 pm

The Panthers travel down I-85 this week to take on NFC South rival Atlanta. And they'll do it without longtime coach Ron Rivera, who was fired on Tuesday following the team's fourth straight loss.

And while players certainly understand that the NFL is a business, that didn't make it any easier for them.

“When you have somebody leave like that, it's difficult, it's hard, and it makes you sad,” said linebacker Luke Kuechly. “It makes me sad because he's the only coach I've ever had.”

Kuechly and the rest of the Panthers know that the show must go on, though, and that means taking on the Falcons on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1:00 on WBT.

The Panthers would like to exact a little revenge on their rivals, who clobbered them 29-3 at home last month and have beaten them four straight times.

The Falcons might be just 3-9 on the season, but they've still got one of the most potent offenses in the NFL.

Veteran quarterback Matt Ryan directs a passing attack that ranks number one in the league. He's got a pair of dangerous receivers in All-Pro Julio Jones and 2nd-year player Calvin Ridley.

Jones is averaging nearly 17 yards a catch, while Ridley burned the Panthers for 143 yards in the first meeting and has six touchdowns on the year.

And don't forget about Devonta Freeman. The Pro Bowl running back looks to be back to form after a foot injury and is a dual-threat, with 700 combined yards.

“He can do a lot of things and that's what makes him good,” said Kuechly. “He's not just a runner, he's not just a receiver, he's both. And that's why you have to make sure you know where he is.”

The Falcons defense is nowhere as impressive as the offense, although it does have plenty of talent. Former Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley teams with Adrian Clayborn and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who leads the team with five and a half of the team's 18 sacks.

Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell has been all over the field, he leads the team in tackles and has two forced fumbles, two interceptions, and a sack.

Thanks to a rash of injuries to key players, the Falcons secondary has been suspect, giving up 260 passing yards per game, that's 25th in the league.

But cornerback Desmond Trufant is back from an injury, he leads the team with four interceptions.

After an emotional week, the Panthers will certainly be ready to get back on the field Sunday. And they want a win for plenty of reasons - they want to snap their four-game losing streak, and get their first win in Atlanta since 2014.

But they also want to win for Rivera.

“We're playing for coach Rivera,” said interim coach Perry Fewell. “And we're playing for ourselves, the Panther organization, and the Panther nation. But we really want to do this for coach.”

Let's do it!

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