I arrived back at NFC South Blog headquarters just a bit ago and there are a whole lot of odds and ends to catch up on from all around the division. Let’s take a rapid-fire look:
The team’s plans for a new stadium seemed to take another step forward as the Georgia World Congress Center Authority approved a non-binding term sheet that will provide the basis for further negotiation. There still likely will be some ups and downs, but both sides seem to be moving toward getting a deal done.
The Falcons held injured cornerback Asante Samuel out of Sunday’s game with Carolina even though he was on the active roster. Coach Mike Smith said Samuel could have played in an emergency situation. But the Falcons obviously were being cautious with the veteran. Smith said he expects Samuel to practice Wednesday. Smith wasn’t as optimistic about safety William Moore, who sat out Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury.
Scott Fowler writes that Cam Newton’s 72-yard touchdown run against Atlanta should be on the list of the greatest plays in franchise history. I agree that Newton’s run was spectacular, but I’m not ready to declare it a pivotal moment in franchise history just yet. If, in hindsight, the play ends up helping Ron Rivera keep his job and the Panthers come back and do some great things next season, then the Newton run truly will be special.
The war of words between the Falcons and Panthers isn’t over even though the season series is. Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant reportedly said outspoken Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy and his teammates can “watch us in January’’. This rivalry always has simmered but it’s really heating up. Too bad former Carolina punter Todd Sauerbrun still isn’t in the league because he was a master at stirring the pot.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Bradley Handwerger writes that the Saints seem to have lost the aura of invincibility they’ve had for the past three seasons. That’s true. They’re back to being about the same team they were in 2007 and ’08. Assuming suspended coach Sean Payton gets his contract situation worked out, he's going to have to do some rebuilding next season.
A ruling by former NFL commissioner on the appeals of suspensions in the bounty scandal reportedly will be announce Tuesday.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Roy Cummings writes that Sunday marked the fourth time this season the Bucs have blown a fourth-quarter lead. But Sunday’s loss to Philadelphia is disconcerting for a team that had appeared to be on the rise. The previous lost fourth-quarter opportunities came against the Falcons, Giants and Redskins. Those are teams that are at good teams. The Eagles don’t even fall into that category.
Coach Greg Schinao said his decision to punt to Philadelphia near the end of Sunday’s game was not due to a lack of confidence in quarterback Josh Freeman and the offense. Schiano said he decided to take his chances with his defense against rookie quarterback Nick Foles, who ended up leading his team to a game-winning drive. I’d take my chances with Tampa Bay’s run defense, but the pass defense has been a completely different story. Even against a rookie quarterback, it wasn’t good enough.
One late addition here -- The Bucs just announced they have placed cornerback Myron Lewis on inured reserve and claimed guard Hayworth Hicks off waivers from Kansas City.