Post Patterns: The NFC South Defenses

After setting it up with Sunday Spotlight this morning, it's time to look back and see how our featured artists fared. First up: The defenses of the NFC South.

Atlanta Falcons: They allowed Jake Delhomme's(notes) first 300-yard passing game since Week 2 of the 2007 season, but that had something to do with Carolina's need to play catchup with the new, scary, Matt-Ryan-to-Tony-Gonzalez combo in the Falcons' 28-20 win. There should be some sort of statistical debit for intercepting Delhomme only once, but we're not sure just what that should be. Had the Panthers run the ball more in a closer game, it could have been ugly; Jonathan Stewart(notes) gained 65 yards on just nine carries. Bad news came on the injury front: First-round tackle Peria Jerry(notes) left the game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Jerry had been playing well, drawing consistent double teams, and his loss would be felt.

Carolina Panthers: They limited Michael Turner(notes) to 3.8 yards per carry on 28 carries, but that's basically Turner's game anyway. What they couldn't do was control the Falcons' passing game. Ryan was about as efficient as a quarterback could be in a run-heavy game plan (21/27/220/3/1), and Gonzalez presented nightmarish matchup problems for the Panthers. Even worse, this formerly sack-happy defense didn't bring Ryan down once. If you allow that guy to stay upright, he'll just eat your lunch.

New Orleans Saints: Inconclusive after two weeks. So far, they've exploited Matt Stafford and Kevin Kolb(notes) - two quarterbacks making their first NFL starts. Kolb got almost 400 yards passing in a 48-22 loss, but that's what happens when you're going up against Drew Brees(notes) and you turn the ball over four times. Darren Sharper(notes) and Scott Shanle(notes) pick up game balls for picks in both games this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Last week against the Cowboys, Tampa Bay gave up passing touchdowns of 42, 66, and 80 yards. This week against the Bills, Tampa Bay only gave up passing touchdowns of 32 and 43 yards as the Bills won, 33-20. So, they've got that going for them... Unfortunately, running back Fred Jackson(notes) gained 163 yards on 28 carries, continuing a trend of getting thrashed by opposing running games that dates back to the end of the 2008 season - you know, the late-season meltdown that cost Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen their jobs. At this point, the Bucs have to hold up the "CONSTRUCTION ZONE" sign and hope for competitive losses.

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