Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 12/10/12
The Carolina Panthers won't be making the playoffs this year, but Cam Newton and Company sure are acting like these are the playoffs.With their beat-down of the Falcons Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte complete, the Panthers are playing their best football of the season.Here are five things we learned from Sunday's 30-20 victory by Carolina over Atlanta:1. Superman does in fact still reside in Carolina, Charlotte to be exact on eight Sundays a year. Cam Newton personally dismantled division rival the Atlanta Falcons in a game that saw one team struggling for answers and another team clicking on all cylinders.Cam dashed, darted, and drove the Panthers through the Falcons on Sunday, finishing the game with 287 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. For good measure, Newton also rushed for 116 yards; including a gallop of 72 yards and a touchdown in the third quarter that really put the game on ice for the Panthers.2. Atlanta had a terrible time running the ball against the Panthers, to be perfectly honest; they stunk. The Falcons finished with 35 rushing yards for the game, running back Jacquizz Rodgers was the leading rusher with 21 yards. This pathetic performance by the Falcons does not bode well for the team as Atlanta tries to fine tune their remaining games in preparation for the playoffs.3. Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams still has some sizzle left in him. On Sunday Williams rushed for 56 yards, and had 56 yards receiving as well, including a 53-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that added on to the Panther lead and provided more thrills for the home crowd at Bank of America Stadium.4. The Atlanta Falcons may be heading to the playoffs, but something about this team just is not right. Something is missing. Something is needed. Something better change quickly for the Falcons. The team has talented players, lead by quarterback Matt Ryan and a dynamic receiving corps of Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez, but for Atlanta to make a deep run in the playoffs they will need more than what they have showed recently.Their run game is modest, the defense inconsistent; and the swagger that was present early in the season seems to have lost some of its luster.5. Carolina is still playing hard as the season winds down, which is a testament to the coaching staff as a whole, and they players who will not let the season tick away without a strong effort.A lot of teams start to mail it in around December when their record is not so great, and the promise of a playoff filled season comes to a crashing halt.Ron Rivera and his staff have Carolina playing with passion, despite their record; and with a renewed confidence engulfing the team, what better way to finish the season than with the momentum and hope of better things to come next season.
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