It is somewhat unfair that NFL punters and kickers never get noticed until they’re either playing really well or really poorly. But not being noticed at least means they’re not playing poorly.
Carolina punter Michael Palardy and Panthers kicker Graham Gano are getting noticed for all the right reasons.
Palardy was excellent in flipping the field against the high-powered Atlanta offense on Sunday, with a net punting average of 47.2 yards, a 57-yard long and three of his five punts downed inside the 20.
This proved helpful against dynamic Falcons return man Andre Roberts – as Palardy simplified the work of the special teams gunners.
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Linebacker Jared Norris had a moment in the spotlight late in the game, beating everyone downfield on a 57-yard punt and getting an arm on Roberts long enough to slow him down as he headed for an open edge. Linebackers Ben Jacobs and David Mayo then wrapped up Roberts before he could do any damage, and Atlanta started from its 21.
“If you go out with a mindset that each game it’s important to flip the field, no matter who is on the other side and no matter what offense we’re playing against, I think it gives me more comfortability back there,” Palardy said. “On top of that, being able to trust the 10 guys around me that protect and that cover the ball. ... We knew the returner was elusive and that he could make big plays over the course of his career. We watched it all week, and tried to minimize it as best we could.”
Gano hit both of his field goal and extra points attempts, including a 45-yard long. His only missed field goal of the season (he is 17 of 18), was a 55-yard attempt on Oct. 8 against Detroit.