After their heartbreaking loss a couple of weeks ago, the Carolina Panthers got their revenge against the Atlanta Falcons, winning on their home turf, 25-15, for their third win of the season.
D.J. Moore’s decision to take off his helmet two weeks ago after scoring on a Hail Mary to tie the game led to a missed extra point attempt that would eventually set up a Falcons’ field goal for the overtime victory.
This time around, the Panthers were dominant throughout the game, and they did so by beating the Falcons at what they do best: Running the football.
Atlanta came into the game with the fourth-most rushing yards per game and third-most rush attempts per contest. But while they tried four different running backs and used quarterback Marcus Mariota to run, they were only able to generate 138 yards on the ground.
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Meanwhile, the Panthers totaled 232, and it was behind D’Onta Foreman’s 130 yards on 31 carries, as he was the workhorse they needed to get through this game filled with bad rain and wind.
Foreman scored the team’s second touchdown of the game, which came right after Mariota found rookie wide receiver Drake London in the end zone to cut the Panthers’ lead to four. Quarterback PJ Walker and the offense went just seven plays on the next drive, which Foreman capped with a 12-yard touchdown run to make it 19-9 (Eddy Pineiro missed the extra point just like Younghoe Koo did).
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Walker wasn’t as flashy as he was in Atlanta, but he managed the game well behind the run game. He finished with just 108 yards on 10 of 16, though he made smart decisions when he had to throw the ball (except for one which will be highlighted later on).
He also let his teammates make plays, as the first touchdown of the game came in Carolina’s 10-point second quarter, with Laviska Shenault catching a crosser and taking it 41 yards to the house to make it 10-0.
Mariota, on the other hand, made poor decisions throughout the game. While he was pressured a lot, he shouldn’t have had just one interception on the night. The Panthers had multiple chances to come away with a pick, but only Jaycee Horn was able to catch one on a desperation heave intended for tight end Kyle Pitts in the second quarter.
However, he was able to put together a 97-yard drive that was finished with a 25-yard touchdown pass to KhaDarel Hodge that brought the Falcons within one possession in the fourth quarter.
Falcons safety Richie Grant may have made the final drive for Atlanta more interesting if he could come away with an interception on Walker following that score, as he jumped the route perfectly but couldn’t catch it inside Panthers territory.
Instead, the Falcons gave the ball right back to the Panthers after just four plays, with Marquis Haynes Sr. collecting two sacks during the drive. Pineiro would add his fourth field goal of the game for good measure as the Panthers ran out the clock.
Mariota finished the game with his two touchdown passes and interception, going 19-for-30 for 186 yards.
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While no one truly went off in the run game, Caleb Huntley was the lead back with 32 yards on just five carries. Cordarrelle Patterson, who scored twice last week, was expected to be a key performer in this game, but he had just five carries for 18 yards. Mariota actually led in rushing yards with 43 on just three carries.
London had five catches for 38 yards with his touchdown, while Pitts, despite having eight targets, had just two catches for 28 yards.
On defense, Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu, who has been a standout all season, had two sacks on Mariota, while Brian Burns collected one as well to total the five on the night.
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The Panthers will have a tougher task next week when they face the Baltimore Ravens on the road, while the Falcons return to Atlanta to face the visiting Chicago Bears.