CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- So much for being competitive.
That's all coach Dan Quinn wanted from his Atlanta Falcons going into Bank of America Stadium on Sunday against the undefeated NFC South champion Carolina Panthers. Instead, the Falcons looked like they didn't belong in the same league -- let alone the same division -- in a 38-0 loss to the Panthers. It was the first time the Falcons have been shut out since a 27-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Dec. 5, 2004.
Veteran receiver Roddy White getting stopped 2 yards short of the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 6-yard line was symbolic of the Falcons' offensive struggles throughout the day. Quarterback Matt Ryan turned the ball over twice, including his 14th interception of the season. He also was sacked and fumbled at his own 26-yard line, setting up a Panthers touchdown.
But the game really was lost in the first quarter. The Falcons surrendered three touchdowns in the first 15 minutes, including touchdown hookups of 74 and 46 yards from Cam Newton to speedy receiver Ted Ginn Jr. Another explosive play -- a 44-yard run by running back Jonathan Stewart three plays into the game -- had already set up Stewart's 1-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.
To put it simply, the Falcons showed little fight.
The season is all but a wrap for a team that started 5-0. Forget about any talk of the playoffs, even if the Falcons haven't been mathematically eliminated. The 6-7 Falcons have dropped six in a row and would be fortunate to win another game given the way they're playing.
What were they thinking? When the Falcons got down 21-0, the offense didn't really try to go down the field despite having nothing to lose. Sure, Ryan had pressure in his face, and the blocking in front of him wasn't great. However, one would think there was at least an opportunity or two to go deep toward Julio Jones, even with top cornerback Josh Norman covering him.
One reason to get excited: The season is almost over. Yes, it's three more games before the Falcons can put this colossal collapse behind them following a 5-0 start to the season. You'd think next week's trip to Jacksonville would be the perfect remedy, but the Falcons have shown no evidence they can even beat the Jaguars.
One reason to panic: There more than just one reason. Offensively, Ryan still hasn't found his footing, and the line continues to be an issue. Kyle Shanahan's play calling continues to be a frustrating topic for fans. Turnovers were a problem again, with Ryan and Devonta Freeman both losing fumbles. Defensively, the message about wrapping up for the tackle still hasn't gotten through, while foolish penalties continue to be committed, including several by cornerback Robert Alford on Sunday. Plus, defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman let his frustrations boil over into a sideline tirade. The team must make significant changes after the season -- yes, just a year after owner Arthur Blank blew up the coaching staff and reassigned general manager Thomas Dimitroff.
Fantasy watch: The Falcons didn't score, so enough said here. Fantasy owners would have been better off sitting their Falcons against the swarming Panthers' defense.
Ouch: Strong safety William Moore left the game early with an ankle injury and did not return despite trying to walk it off. He was replaced by Kemal Ishmael. Nose tackle Paul Soliai, who missed the game with a calf injury, ran sprints during warm-ups with a sleeve protecting his right calf. He is expected to return next week.