Originally posted on Fox Sports Carolinas  |  Last updated 12/7/11
The Falcons know the rematch with the Carolina Panthers could be treacherous. The Falcons defeated the Panthers 31-17 on Oct. 16 when they intercepted rookie quarterback Cam Newton three times and running back Michael Turner rushed for 139 yards and scored two touchdowns. "They've really done a nice job in evolving the offense over the season," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It's a much different offense from what we saw six weeks ago in terms of they really have a plan in how they want to use their weapons." Newton broke Steve Grogan's record for rushing touchdowns and must be accounted for in the run game. "Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams are starting to roll," Smith said. "They are running the ball very effectively and Steve Smith has over 60 catches. He's their No. 1 target." In the previous meeting, the Falcons held Carolina's Steve Smith to five catches for 66 yards. "He's probably the most competitive guy that we play in the division," Smith said. "It's amazing to watch this guy go out and compete. We have to make sure that we have a plan to not eliminate, but reduce the role of Steve Smith and then we have to be able to stop the run." Like most teams, the Falcons split the season up into quarters. They went 2-2 in the first quarter, 3-1 in the second quarter and 2-2 in the third quarter. They'll need to go at least 3-1 over the final quarter to land a wild-card berth. "You get into this final quarter, into December, and the stakes are much, much higher," Smith said. "It's fun for everybody that is involved. You can sit here as a team and realize that you have an opportunity to reach your goals that you set internally as a football team."
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