Tom Talks

Panthers good now at winning close ones

tsorensen@charlotteobserver.comDecember 29, 2013 

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Carolina Panthers fans hold up a sign for quarterback Cam Newton (1) prior the team's game vs the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on Sunday. After the game, players supported Panthers fans who traveled to Atlanta for their support.

JEFF SINER — jsiner@charlotteobserver.com Buy Photo

Every Carolina Panthers coach, player and fan undoubtedly would like the team to blow out an opponent. We don’t know if they’re capable. But, man, they are good at winning close games.

• Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked at least nine times Sunday. I say at least because the team’s marching band trots onto the field on occasion, and I thought I saw the guy with the snare drum sprint past a tackle, roll over a guard and take Ryan down.

• Panthers fans, your team salutes you.

“It was crazy,” Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy said about the Panther presence in the Georgia Dome. “You see all that blue out there, just an ocean of red and blue. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it. Come to a different state and take over a stadium. And I loved it. I raised my hands and it gets loud … just cheers of affection and love and it feels great. And it gives you energy and excitement.”

Hardy said he looked at fans and asked, “Are you not entertained? I got to give you a little more.” With four sacks, he did.

• Late first half, second and 10 from the Atlanta 20, and Carolina fullback Mike Tolbert got the ball and room to move. The 245-pound Tolbert rammed into Atlanta defenders like a wrecking ball hitting an old building, a bowling ball hitting a pin, a 90-mph baseball hitting a bamboo bat.

Those defenders went for a ride. As Tolbert returned to the huddle, he brushed imaginary dust off his jersey. Brushing off tacklers looked similarly easy.

• Is there a Panthers player or coach or, I don’t know, owner, you’d like to read about? If you have a candidate, let me know. And have fun with the playoffs. Don’t manufacture reasons to worry. If you’re a fan, this is what you’ve been waiting for. If you’ve stuck with the team, you earned this.

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