Final

Falcons 20

(1-0, 1-0 away)

Panthers 6

(0-1, 0-1 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, September 10, 2006

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 3 10 7 020
CAR 3 0 3 06

Top Performers

Passing: J. Delhomme (CAR) - 186 YDS, 1 INT

Rushing: W. Dunn (ATL) - 29 CAR, 132 YDS

Receiving: M. Jenkins (ATL) - 3 REC, 77 YDS, 1 TD

Abraham dominates Panthers; Vick, Dunn help Falcons cruise

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Warrick Dunn figured Atlanta's dominating performance over Super Bowl favorite Carolina would come as a surprise.

It was over when ...
The Falcons suffered a season-ending 44-11 loss to the Panthers in '05. After revamping its O-line in the offseason, Atlanta held Carolina -- playing without Pro Bowler Steve Smith -- to 215 yards, limited Keyshawn Johnson to four catches for 40 yards and kept the Panthers from converting on third down until the fourth quarter. If that weren't enough, the Falcons also handed the Panthers their third straight season-opening loss.
Game ball goes to ...
It's a three-way tie: John Abraham, who had two sacks and two forced fumbles; Warrick Dunn, who rushed for 132 yards; and Michael Vick, who threw two TD passes.
Scouts Inc.'s take ...
The Falcons played like they were in midseason form, dominating the Panthers in almost every phase of the game. Without the services of Pro Bowl wide receiver Smith, the Panthers struggled to get into rhythm with their passing attack. Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp did an excellent job of attacking the edges of the Panthers' run defense with Dunn. Vick found a new target in wide receiver Michael Jenkins, who had three receptions for 77 yards and one touchdown. The Panthers struggled to contain Vick, allowing the QB to get outside on the edges and utilize his speed and elusiveness in open space.

Defensively, the Falcons smothered Jake Delhomme with their persistent four-man rush, which was led by Abraham. The Falcons did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage by attacking up-field gaps that confused the Panthers' blocking patterns and limited Carolina's running game to 65 yards.

"Most people didn't think we could do that," said Dunn after he rushed for 132 yards in the Falcons' 20-6 win over the Panthers on Sunday. "We've added some guys who have been to the Pro Bowl. There's an emphasis to get to the next level."

One of those newcomers, John Abraham, had two sacks and two forced fumbles, while Michael Vick threw two touchdown passes as the Falcons erased memories of their season-ending 44-11 loss to the Panthers.

The Falcons were accused of not giving a complete effort -- a theory Vick affirmed when he said in the offseason he didn't try his hardest in Atlanta's final regular-season game.

"You've barely heard about Atlanta all offseason and I think that's good for us," Abraham said. "We were 8-8 last year and a lot of guys had us in a slump."

In the offseason, the Falcons acquired Abraham from the New York Jets and signed Grady Jackson away from the Green Bay Packers. The revamped line dominated the Panthers, who were held to 215 yards as they played without all-Pro receiver Steve Smith, inactive with a right hamstring injury.

"We've got three Pro Bowl pass rushers on this team. If we didn't come here and hit the quarterback a lot, I would have been surprised," said Abraham, who limped off the field late in the game with a groin injury. He said the injury wasn't serious.

Atlanta also rolled on offense, finishing with 252 yards rushing.

Carolina, which had the third-rated defense a year ago, fell flat to begin a season with high expectations after last season's loss in the NFC Championship Game.

"What did we give up in the running game? That was ridiculous," said defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, playing in his first game after knee surgery. "It wasn't the Super Bowl, but it was a division game and a conference game. They kicked our tails. I'm not proud of it, but I'm being honest."

Vick, trying to silence critics after throwing 13 interceptions last season, threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Alge Crumpler late in the third quarter for a 20-6 lead. Crumpler outmuscled Panthers linebacker Chris Draft, who in training camp called Vick just an average passer who gets hit a lot.

Atlanta took a 13-3 halftime lead, getting the only touchdown of the half late when Vick did what he does best: improvise.

Vick rolled toward the left sideline, drawing the defense to him before dumping a short pass to Michael Jenkins. He broke Ken Lucas' tackle along the sideline and raced 34 yards for a touchdown with 28 seconds left.

"I'm just comfortable with everything that we are doing with our scheme," Vick said. "I spent a lot of time this offseason working with our offense and just trying to put myself in a position where I can be effective with every snap."

The Panthers generated 89 yards offense in the first half -- fitting because they were missing No. 89, quarterback Jake Delhomme's primary target last season. Smith, inactive with a right hamstring injury, was the league's top receiver last season with 103 catches for 1,563 yards and 12 touchdowns.

After missing most of training camp with a strained left hamstring and an ingrown toenail, the 2005 co-comeback player of the year pulled up lame in practice with a right hamstring injury.

"He's a big part of our offense, but still, that's not an excuse for this performance," Delhomme said.

The Panthers went to their newest option, veteran Keyshawn Johnson, for an 8-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. But Johnson had only four catches for 40 yards and Delhomme was 21-of-36 for 186 yards and an interception. The Panthers didn't convert a third-down chance until early the fourth quarter.

The Panthers were further hampered when left tackle Travelle Wharton left in the second quarter with a left knee strain. It forced the Panthers to make several moves to the right combination to contain Abraham.

The Panthers also lost middle linebacker Dan Morgan with a concussion early in the second quarter. Adam Seward replaced Morgan, who has a history of concussions.

"We had a similar game plan as we had in the past, but we had some new people out there when Dan Morgan went down and we just didn't execute as well," coach John Fox said.

Game notes


The Panthers have lost three straight season openers, all at home. ... Drew Carter started in place of Smith and had five catches for 62 yards. ... Falcons linebacker Edgerton Hartwell, who had arthroscopic surgery on both knees in the preseason, did not play. Keith Brooking moved to middle linebacker and Demorrio Williams started at outside linebacker.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
ATL
CAR
1st Downs2415
Passing 1st downs
810
Rushing 1st downs
144
1st downs from penalties
21
3rd down efficiency
4-132-12
4th down efficiency
0-10-2
Total Plays7059
Total Yards385215
Yards per play5.53.6
Total Drives1212
Passing133150
Comp-Att
10-2221-39
Yards per pass
5.83.5
Interceptions thrown
01
Sacks-Yards Lost
1-74-36
Rushing25265
Rushing Attempts
4716
Yards per rush
5.44.1
Red Zone (Made-Att)1-30-0
Penalties2-208-45
Turnovers02
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
01
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession36:2823:32

Passing Leaders

ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Vick10/221406.4201-7
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Delhomme21/391864.8014-36

Rushing Leaders

ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Dunn291324.6025
Norwood10666.6016
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Foster15543.6010
Carter11111.0011

Receiving Leaders

ATLRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jenkins37725.7134
Crumpler3279.0116
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Carter56212.4025
Johnson44010.0018

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERATLCAR
carFG7:10John Kasay 46 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 24 yds, 3:16
03
atlFG1:23Michael Koenen 17 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 69 yds, 5:38
33
SECOND QUARTERATLCAR
atlFG9:17Michael Koenen 24 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 10 plays, 70 yds, 4:11
63
atlTD0:37Michael Jenkins, 34 yd pass from Michael Vick (Michael Koenen kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 80 yds, 2:36
133
THIRD QUARTERATLCAR
carFG8:08John Kasay 38 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 5 plays, 18 yds, 0:58
136
FOURTH QUARTERATLCAR
atlTD0:41Alge Crumpler, 1 yd pass from Michael Vick (Michael Koenen kick is good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 50 yds, 3:43
206