Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan had a strong – and profane – message near the end of the Falcons’ come-from-behind victory against the Panthers in Week 4.
On Wednesday it was the Panthers’ turn.
Preparing for this week’s rematch against the NFC South-champion Falcons, several Panthers’ players said they haven’t forgotten Ryan’s sideline comment and hope to make him pay for it Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
After Matt Bryant’s 40-yard field goal gave the Falcons a 30-28 lead with five seconds left, the Fox cameras caught Ryan saying: “Get the (expletive) off our field!”
Defensive end Charles Johnson said the Panthers heard Ryan’s comment on a highlight show on the team bus en route to the Atlanta airport after the game.
“I think we marked this day down since (then),” Johnson said. “He had all due respect to say that. Hey, you got to come in our house now.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said Ryan’s remark left a bad taste with the Panthers.
“I can’t repeat it to you. That’s how bad it was,” Munnerlyn said. “He totally disrespected us. They won the game. They came all the way back and beat us. But to say what he said, I don’t think it was called for. He could have handled it a different way. But he said it.”
The Falcons (11-1) are tied with Houston for the league’s best record and wrapped up the division with four games remaining. The Panthers (3-9) have lost five in a row to Atlanta – giving up at least 30 points in each – and are within a game of the NFL’s worst record.
Yet, Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy believes Carolina has the better team. Not just during the Week 4 loss, but overall.
“Both,” Hardy said. “I’m really not a fan of the team down the street.”
Hardy said he would delight in spoiling the Falcons’ goal of earning home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I’m trying to mess up their whole playoff experience. I want them to go home sick in the stomach, mad about life, a couple depression issues, all types of things,” Hardy said. “It’s going to be a long day from my point of view. I’m coming.”
The Panthers set a team record by sacking Ryan seven times in the first meeting, the most the Falcons have allowed in Ryan’s five seasons. They led 28-27 and had Atlanta backed up at its 1-yard line with 59 seconds left.
But Ryan completed a 59-yard pass to Roddy White to set up Bryant’s game-winner, stunning a Panthers’ team that went on to lose its next three games and five of six.
“The thing that hurt us the most was we had the game. We let it slip away, man. And when we saw (what Ryan said), we were like, ‘Wow,’ ” Munnerlyn said. “That’s why this game to (Johnson) and some of the Georgia (natives), it means so much to them. He said some harsh words. So it’s going to be a fight out there.”
The Falcons racked up 426 yards in the first game, the second most given up by the Panthers this season. Ryan threw for 369 yards and three touchdowns, White caught eight passes for 169 yards and two scores, and Michael Turner ran for 103 yards.
Hardy said the Falcons have more explosive players than any team in the league. But he expects the Panthers to win Sunday.
“They’re a good team,” Hardy said. “They’ve got receivers that can catch, but they can be stopped. They’ve got linemen that can block, but they can be beaten. They’ve got a quarterback who’s going to be on the ground, and that’s where he belongs because he’s a quarterback. That’s going to happen.”
Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams said he didn’t need Ryan’s comment to get fired up to play the Falcons.
“Everything about the Atlanta Falcons sits wrong with me. Anybody in our conference or division, they all sit me wrong with me, whether they’re talking or not talking,” Williams said. “It’s not like it adds any more fuel to the fire. They’re the Atlanta Falcons coming in here. We had them on the ropes and we let them off the last game. We’ll see who will be saying what at the end of this game on Sunday.”
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