Time for an evening look at the headlines from around the division:
Mark Bradley does a nice job of describing a scene that was more obvious to viewers at home than to those of us in the Georgia Dome press box. The television broadcast clearly showed Atlanta coach Mike Smith slightly shoving assistant coach Ray Hamilton as Smith called a timeout before Carolina tried a Hail-Mary play. The problem was the Falcons didn’t have a timeout left. Smith knew that, but called it anyway because he knew rules don’t penalize a team for calling a timeout it doesn’t have. The officials simply told Smith he didn’t have a timeout left and that conversation allowed the Falcons to get an 11th defender on the field. Smith apologized to Hamilton on Monday for the shove.
After missing two games with a concussion, Atlanta nickel back Christopher Owens has been cleared to return to practice later this week. Dominique Franks and Robert McClain have taken turns at nickel back. As long as Owens is healthy, my guess is he’ll jump right back ahead of Franks and McClain.
Quarterback Cam Newton will appear in an ESPN commercial. There’s irony here because Newton is telling a joke in the commercial. In real life, he hasn’t had much to laugh about in Carolina’s 1-3 start.
Scott Fowler says that coach Ron Rivera made a “play-not-to-lose’’ decision when he elected to punt instead of going for it on fourth down late in the game. I see both sides of this one, but I don’t have a huge problem with Rivera’s call. His defense had been putting pressure on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan all day. If the defense had done that one more time, the game would have been over.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said football is a game of inches. He’s right. But this is nothing new. It always has been and always will be. Your defense is supposed to stop offenses from turning inches into yards and eventually into points.
The Saints keep saying they’re going to get better. But the fact is they’re 0-4 and that means they’re in a very deep hole. The season is not over, but, as Bradley Handwerger writes, the Saints are in a situation where they have almost no margin for error the rest of the season.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Rookie linebacker Lavonte David had a strong outing Sunday. That’s why I see more hope down the line for the Bucs than I do the Saints or Panthers. Tampa Bay is getting good production from a lot of young guys and the Bucs still are adjusting to a new coaching staff. Things haven’t started great, but they should eventually get better.
Offensive tackle Donald Penn says he believes the Bucs are close to turning the corner. He may have a point. The Bucs are doing some things really well, but need some obvious work in other areas. I’ve seen scenarios shape up like this before, back in the mid-1990s as the Bucs started to get good and in the early 2000s, when the Panthers started grasping onto John Fox’s system. However, it's important to note this is a process that takes time.