The Falcons entered the second quarter tied at 7-7 with the Panthers, but they enter the locker room now trailing 23-7 at halftime. Where to begin?
The catalyst that broke this game wide open for the Panthers was none other than much-maligned former first rounder Sam Baker. On third and six inside their own 10, Baker was easily beaten by his man Antwan Applewhite, who then sacked Matt Ryan in the end zone for a safety.
Then on the second play of the ensuing possession, DeAngelo Williams got the pitch and took it 74 yards to the house (untouched, I might add). That score would put Carolina up 16-7.
After forcing the Falcons to go three-and-out, Cam Newton would then find Greg Olsen on a screen pass on third and fourteen. Olsen would catch that pass and take 44 yards down the field for another score, extending the Panthers' lead to 23-7 and blowing this football game wide open.
Both Sam Baker and Joe Hawley, who each spent time at right guard, struggled mightily. In fact, the entire offensive line seemed to experience a major regression and completely failed to give Ryan any sort of time in the pocket. For the Falcons, they may be watching the sun set on their playoff hopes this afternoon, and barring some strong second-half adjustments or a big-time comeback by the offense, this one looks to be in the hands of Carolina.