After watching the Panther’s 28-20 loss to the Falcons on Sunday, someone ought to file a missing persons report with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

It seemed obvious that Julius Peppers, Jon Beason, Chris Gamble, Nail Diggs or just about anyone else on the Panthers’ defense didn’t make the trip to Atlanta.

On a day when the Panther offense improved, the defense took a step back, giving up four touchdowns. There as a glimmer of light with Thomas Davis’ 12 tackles and Richard Marshall’s interception – the only time it looked like the defense could stop a drive.

Case in point, Atlanta was six of 12 in converting third downs, and perfect on two fourth down attempts.

For some odd reason, the Panther defenders couldn’t get any pressure on quarterback Matt Ryan, who was a scintillating 21 for 27 passing. Aside from a bad read he made in the first quarter, Ryan didn’t seem hurried or rattled at all the rest of the way.

He was too comfortable in the pocket, which explains why Carolina had no sacks and, more importantly, no game-changing plays.

I’m not suggesting that this loss was all on the defense, but considering last week’s collapse by Jake Delhomme, the Panther offense did good to double their point total. I thought Delhomme would get better and he did, finishing the game with 308 yards and one touchdown.

Would it have been asking too much for the Panthers defenders to step up and do the same? C’mon Peppers; you’re making $1 million a game; we’ve got to get more out of you than just two tackles.

It’s a cliché but it’s true – defense does win games and Carolina will not get on the winning track until they defend more consistently.

Just in these first two games Panther opponents have averaged a whopping 33 points. You can’t expect to outscore teams that are putting up points at that rate week after week.

I would say it’s time for the defense to regroup, but they started that process last spring when Ron Meeks began implementing a new defensive scheme for the team.

I guess they’ll have to re-regroup this week…, that’s not a word, but I wouldn’t call what you saw on Sunday defense either.

Damon Ford is a public relations professional who has worked in the public and private sectors in Charlotte.

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