CHARLOTTE – Panthers linebacker James Anderson set a team record with 20 tackles against the New York Giants last week, but the outcome of the game stopped Anderson from feeling too good about his latest accomplishment.
“It’s good to put your name in the record book, but you’re not celebrating,” Anderson said. “If we win the game, it’s a whole different story. Then you played a great game. But because of the manner in which we played, it wasn’t a celebratory 20 tackles.”
Anderson held a share of the previous record with 18 tackles in the 2011 season finale at New Orleans, a number also recorded by Thomas Davis, Mike Minter and Michael Barrow.
In 2011, Anderson set the franchise record for tackles in a season with 174. Fellow linebacker Jon Beason had led the team for four consecutive seasons and owned the four highest tackle totals in franchise history before missing all but one game last season with an Achilles injury.
Through three games, Anderson leads the team with 33 tackles. Beason ranks second with 30.
“I’m making improvements every week, trying to get more and more comfortable in my role,” Anderson said. “I’m just trying to show up every week and give my teammates everything I’ve got.”
STOPS AT THE START: Anderson hopes he doesn’t have to make many tackles on the Panthers’ first defensive series Sunday at the Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons are the only team in the NFL to score a touchdown on the opening series of each of its first three games, while the Panthers are the only team to yield touchdowns on the opening drive to each of its first three opponents.
“On defense, the thing that has gotten us is third-down situations on the first series – two opportunities in the first game, three in the second game and one in the third game,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. “Any stops there, and we get off the field.”
Opponents are 6-for-6 converting third downs on their opening drives. The rest of the game, they’re just 13-for-35 (37.1 percent).
BC CONNECTION: After playing against a friend and former college teammate in New York Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, Panthers rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly is facing another Boston College alum Sunday — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
The two weren’t college teammates, but Ryan did return to campus for a visit while Kuechly was leading the Eagles’ defense.
“He came to the locker room before the spring game last year,” said Kuechly, who stands third on the team with 26 tackles. “He was in the corner, and everyone just swarmed him. So I wasn’t going to go bother him.”
It’ll be Kuechly’s job to bother Ryan this Sunday.
“It’s going to be cool playing against him,” he said.
Rivera said Applewhite and Pollak probably won’t play against the Falcons on Sunday, but there is a chance Beason will play.
“We are still hopeful with Jon,” Rivera said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow.
“The one thing we need to be careful of is getting him back out there and he tries to play through it again and does more damage. That’s probably why we’re being overly cautious right now.”
If Beason can’t go, Rivera said that linebacker Jason Phillips would fill his role in the middle, as he did in impressive fashion throughout much of the preseason.
Running back Jonathan Stewart (toe), linebacker Thomas Davis (calf), cornerback Chris Gamble (shoulder), defensive end Greg Hardy (hand) and safety Colin Jones (shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday.
Rivera said he feels good about Stewart’s chances of playing based on what he’s seen in practice this week.
Senior writer Bryan Strickland and staff writer Max Henson contributed to this report.