Panthers lead 7-3 over one-trick Falcons

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The Falcons have a lack of receiving targets, and it’s beginning to show.

And the Panthers have a wealth of running options, and that is too.

After Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan — who was forcing a pass to a triple-covered Tony Gonzalez, the Panthers responded with an effective touchdown drive for an early 7-3 lead.

Playing without Roddy White again (with Julio Jones on IR), the Falcons have one downfield target and everyone knows it.

Fullback Mike Tolbert finished the shot-field drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, continuing a run of impressive games. DeAngelo Williams has also been effective early, and they haven’t even dipped into the expected return of Jonathan Stewart.

The Falcons look sluggish and undermanned when they have the ball, as Steven Jackson doesn’t have much burst. When he did get into the end zone early in the second quarter, it was called back for holding.

The Panthers still haven’t allowed a first-quarter touchdown this season, and it appears that if Gonzalez doesn’t score one, no one else is going to.