ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 16: Matt Ryan #2 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts just before the touchdown signal is given against the Carolina Panthers at Georgia Dome on October 16, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Falcons Vs. Panthers: Atlanta Steadies With 31-17 Win In Cam Newton's Return

Atlanta native Cam Newton got his first look at the Atlanta Falcons, who picked up a NFC South win too reach .500.

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Falcons Vs. Panthers: Mike Smith On Michael Turner 'He Was In A Groove'

The Atlanta Falcons rallied to beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 in the homecoming game of former Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. The homecoming celebration was derailed by a Falcons defense that forced three interceptions and two sacks on Newton, while Michael Turner handled the scoring load with two touchdowns on 139 yards rushing.

During Monday's Atlanta Falcons' press conference, head coach Mike Smith was effusive with his praise of Turner and the results from the running game on Sunday:

We felt like the way they were going to defend us was going to give us an opportunity. I don't know that we basically came out and said how many carries Michael was going to have but Michael got the ball rolling early and we kept feeding him because we felt that he was in a groove.

Smith on getting Turner outside on the edge versus the Panthers:

When people try to defend us, they're going to basically tell us where we're going to be able to run the football and that's the premise of, again, I say it over and over, of our offense and we felt that we were going to be able to get him to the second level and get him to the second level there on the perimeter. Of course, when you've got Michael coming around the corner at 245 pounds, there's some guys that might not necessarily want to take a clean shot at him.

You might remember that here on SB Nation Atlanta we noted that the Falcons success is deeply rooted to how many carries Turner gets a game. Turner hit the magical number of 20 again on Sunday, giving Atlanta three wins in three games when Turner gets 20+ carries.


Falcons Vs. Panthers Final Score: Michael Turner Powers Falcons To 31-17 Victory

What a final quarter! At the beginning of the quarter, the Falcons actually couldn't come through where they usually do: the red zone. On third and goal at the Carolina two, Ryan couldn't commit to a receiver and the Falcons were forced to settle for a 24-yard Matt Bryant field goal. That would, however, tie things up at 17 points apiece with 14:15 left in this ball game.

On the other side, a holding penalty gave the defense an opportunity to force another punt. On third and fifteen, the Falcons forced Cam Newton to throw underneath- well short of the first down- and in turn a Carolina punt. A decent eight-yard return by Eric Weems had the Falcons in business at their own 40-yard line.

And then the Ryan-led no huddle offense was executed to perfection. While the Panthers finally started stuffing Michael Turner, Ryan made two excellent plays on third down- including a beautiful 34-yard completion to Harry Douglas with pressure coming from all directions- to keep the drive alive. Finally, on second and goal from one yard out, Ryan took it in himself on a QB sneak to put the Falcons up 24-17.

And then the defense came through. After giving up a big first down run to DeAngelo Williams, Corey Peters read a screen pass perfectly and intercepted the short pass by Newton. In a game where turnovers have been the difference, the Falcons have had two huge ones. Peters just made a big-time play that could very well seal this one for the Falcons, as they now are threatening to score inside the Carolina 30.

Once again, it would be Turner to break the Panthers defense. On the ensuing drive, he would carry the ball six times for 29 yards, including his second TD of the game that would seal the Falcons win. On the day, Turner the Burner had 27 carries for 139 yards. His success opened up the passing lanes, and the offense looked much better than last week.

The defense, while not fantastic, made enough plays to limit a red-hot Cam Newton. Brent Grimes did an excellent job on Steve Smith as well. All in all, the Falcons move to 3-3 having played their most complete game of this season. Finally, it would seem all the talk of "improvement" has come to fruition.

For more on this game, visit Atlanta Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Carolina Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader.


Falcons Vs. Panthers Final Injury Report: John Abraham Starting, Jeff Otah Out

The Atlanta Falcons will be without Julio Jones against the Carolina Panthers, but you already knew that. They'll also be without defensive backs James Sanders and Christopher Owens. The good news: defensive end John Abraham will return, as will center Todd McClure. Both missed last week's game against the Green Bay Packers.

For the Panthers, linebacker Omar Gaither is still officially out. Tackle Jeff Otah, who had been questionable and limited in practice with a back injury, is also out. He'll be replaced by rookie Byron Bell. Defensive end Charles Johnson will play.

Otah's exit and Abraham's return could make for some interesting matchups along the offensive line. This could be a good week for Ray Edwards and Kroy Biermann to get going opposite Abraham, but they'll still have the slippery task of wrangling Cam Newton.

For more on this game, visit Atlanta Falcons blog The Falcoholic and Carolina Panthers blog Cat Scratch Reader.


Cam Newton Investigation: NCAA Finds No Major Violations Against Former Auburn QB

In a statement released by the NCAA, the NCAA's associate director of enforcement Jackie Thurnes told Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs that the Tigers had no major violations and have ended their investigation in signing of Cam Newton.

Over 50 interviews were conducted in regards to Cam Newton over an alleged pay-for-play scenario, along with documents obtained by the NCAA including bank statements, IRS tax documents, phone records and e-mail messages.

It is noted in the letter that Auburn self-reported their dealings with Cecil Newton, Cam Newton's father, and "an owner of a scouting service (presumably Will Lyles) that they worked together to actively market Cam Newton for compensation. The report listed that Cam and the University of Auburn were not aware of the activity, this making Cam's time as a Tiger violation-free.

Also in the letter, Thurnes addressed the allegations of Raven Gray, Stanley McClover, Chaz Ramsey and Troy Reddick, who were all featured HBO's Real Sports "Dirty Money" episode. It was alleged that they all had received impermissible benefits while at Auburn. Due to a "lack of cooperation" by certain individuals involved, all allegations have not been substantiated.


Julio Jones Injury Update: Out For Carolina Panthers Game

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will miss the team's upcoming game against the Carolina Panthers due to his hamstring injury, coach Mike Smith confirmed at his Wednesday press conference. Jones had been held out of practice early in the week, with Smith saying he'd wait until Wednesday to update Jones' condition.

Jones suffered the injury late against the Green Bay Packers while trying to run down a deep pass. He got tangled up with a defender and had to step to the sideline. Trainers walked him into the locker room shortly after.

It'll be ... interesting ... to see what the Falcons can do offensively minus perhaps their best weapon. Statistically at least, Jones has been just about the only Falcons receiver or runner who's exceeded expectations. He currently leads the team in receiving yardage.

For more on this game, visit Atlanta Falcons blog The Falcoholic, plus SB Nation's NFL news hub.

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