If there was any doubt about the Panthers readiness to play, it was answered in the opening minutes. Jonathan Stewart did the heavy lifting on Carolina's first drive, ripping off a 44-yard run and capping it with a touchdown dive.
Stewart blasts off for a 44 yard run— Joe Mazur (@joemazurabc11) December 13, 2015
Then it was Cam Newton's turn to dazzle with the help of Ted Ginn Jr. Newton hit Ginn twice on long touchdown tosses of 74 and 46.
1st quarter clinic continues. Newton to Ginn for his 2nd of the half! WOW!— Joe Mazur (@joemazurabc11) December 13, 2015
A week after needing every bit of the 60 minutes to beat the Saints, the Falcons were grounded before the first quarter gun.
As for the injury department, it was not smooth sailing. Newton, and tight end extraordinaire Greg Olsen both needed help off the field in the first half. Newton returned right away while Olsen stayed out with a left knee injury. He did walk off on his own power.
After the game, coach Ron Rivera said Olsen is fine. He said the tight end will be sore, but could have played.
Rivera says Greg Olsen is fine, he tweaked his knee. "I feel comfortable with him. He's going to be sore, but he could've played."— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 13, 2015
Stewart missed most of the second half with a foot injury and linebacker Luke Kuechly injured his right ankle. Thankfully Kuechly and Thomas Davis Sr. both returned in the 3rd quarter.
Starting cornerback Bene Benwikere had to be carted off the field in the 4th quarter.
Bene Benwikere will not return with a left leg injury.— Bryan Strickland (@PanthersBryan) December 13, 2015
During the post-game press conference, Rivera said Benwikere fractured his leg.
Rivera says CB Bene Benwikere suffered a fractured leg. #ATLvsCAR— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 13, 2015
The next box to check is home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Then Ron Rivera will have a decision to make about putting starters on the field to wrap up the regular season. Next week the Panthers visit the Giants. The forecast calls for 14-0.
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