Panthers look for home win against Falcons
Carolina seeks first home win in nearly a year
CHARLOTTE, N.C.— Mike Rucker’s alarm will go off at 7 a.m. today. An hour later, the Carolina Panthers’ defensive end will eat some spaghetti with chicken. He’ll then drive to the stadium and arrive exactly three hours before kickoff.
Convinced that consistency is important, Rucker’s gameday schedule hasn’t changed for years. Everything is timed to the minute, from when he puts on his pads to his pregame workout.
Only when the Panthers (4-4) face the Atlanta Falcons (2-6) today, Rucker would like to stop what’s become a stinging part of the routine: ending his day talking about another Panthers’ home loss.
Carolina hasn’t won a game at Bank of America Stadium in 51 weeks and 357 days. In addition, five quarterbacks have played for Carolina in the stretch of five losses.
“It’s not like anything is different. It’s not that you’re not wanting to win, that you’re not trying,” Rucker said. “It’s just tough to answer why we haven’t been stronger at home.”
With scores of 37-3, 20-7 and 31-7 during the streak, the Panthers have been booed by their home fans and played in the fourth quarter in front of thousands of empty seats.
What makes it puzzling is the Panthers have been able to win on the road. Last week’s loss to Tennessee ended a sixgame road winning streak dating to last season. Coach John Fox has a better road record (25-19) than home mark (2221) with Carolina.
Fox is convinced it’s because of the teams they’ve played at home. But that theory will be tested against the Falcons — even with the Panthers facing more uncertainty at quarterback.
Atlanta did end a three-game losing streak with a 20-16 win over San Francisco last week, but remains one of the league’s worst teams and ranks 27th in total offense.
The Panthers won the first meeting, 27-20 in September, in no small part due to DeAngelo Hall’s meltdown.
The Falcons cornerback was called for 67 yards worth of penalties on one drive — including two personal fouls — as he couldn’t stop jawing with receiver Steve Smith. The Panthers scored the tying touchdown on the drive and took control from there.
“We have talked about that,” Falcons coach Bobby Petrino said. “He has done a nice job and is working at it. He’s been playing well and I know he’s looking forward to the game.”