Defensive Woes Continue as Panthers Fall to Falcons

The Carolina Panthers fall to 3-5 on the season
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CHARLOTTE, NC - Heading into the game, everyone seemed to think that it would be a low scoring affair with the weather that was predicted to be in the greater Charlotte area. Instead, the worst part of the weather moved through earlier in the day which allowed both offenses to get off to a fast start.

The Falcons moved the ball with ease through the air on the first drive as Matt Ryan went 4/4 for 70 yards, driving the ball deep into Carolina territory. At first, it appeared that the Falcons were going to go for it on 4th and short, but interim head coach Raheem Morris called a timeout and elected to settle for the chip shot field goal by Younghoe Koo to give the Falcons a 3-0 lead.

Carolina's offense didn't do much at the start of their first drive but thanks to a defensive pass interference call on 3rd down and a late hit out of bounds, it gave the Panthers 30 free yards. Running back Mike Davis pieced together solid back to back plays with an 11-yard catch in the flat and put a juke on Keanu Neal in the open field that put him on the ground and allowed Davis to move the chains. Davis then followed that up with a 17-yard rush thanks to a beautiful block from quarterback Teddy Bridgewater on the cutback. On the next play, the Panthers took the lead 7-3 after handing it off to wide receiver Curtis Samuel out of the backfield for a 12-yard touchdown.

Atlanta answered with a 37-yard field goal by Koo on the ensuing drive to cut the lead to just one. The Panthers' young secondary (Troy Pride Jr. & Jeremy Chinn) stepped up big by sticking with Julio Jones in the end zone and not allowing him to come down with a touchdown. Defensive lineman Efe Obada came up with his first sack of the season on third down, forcing the field goal.

A couple of drives later, Panthers' corner Donte Jackson came down with his third interception of the season on Atlanta's first play of the drive and a lot of credit has to be given to defensive end Brian Burns for applying pressure in Ryan's face. Just a handful of plays later, the Panthers extended their lead with a flea flicker that went for a 29-yard touchdown to Curtis Samuel, his second of the first half.

The Falcons would respond on their next drive going 75 yards on 10 plays that ended in a 13-yard rushing touchdown by QB Matt Ryan. Pass rusher Brian Burns put a good spin move on the right tackle and the play was covered nicely in the backend. Once Ryan turned the corner, he had a clear path to the pylon - even more so when rookie corner Troy Pride Jr. lost his footing.

Atlanta's defense came up with a big stop on 4th and 1 as Bridgewater decided to pull it on the read option and couldn't quite turn the corner and get upfield as he actually lost yardage on the play. Ryan and the Falcons' offense marched down the field and threatened to put six on the board, but safety Sam Franklin made a good play on the ball by getting a hand in at the last second to prevent a touchdown. Burns came up with a shoestring tackle on third down, which caused Atlanta to settle for another Koo field goal. The Falcons took a 16-14 lead into the half.

Carolina got the ball into plus territory on their first drive of the 2nd half, but got stuffed on fourth down as they tried to convert on the ground with Mike Davis who ran into the back of his offensive lineman. Atlanta would go on to tack on another field goal from Koo to push the lead out to five, 19-14 midway through the third quarter.

The Panthers offense was headed towards a three and out, but head coach Matt Rhule rolled the dice on 4th and 9 on their side of the field with a direct snap to Jeremy Chinn on the punting formation that went for a first down. Later in the drive, Bridgewater was tripped and then Falcons' defensive lineman Charles Harris came in with a late hit on top of it, which sent Bridgewater to the sidelines to be examined for a concussion. Harris was ejected from the game following the hit. Backup QB P.J. Walker took a shot to Robby Anderson up the sideline and almost connected for a touchdown, but fell incomplete. A couple of plays later the Panthers settled for a 39-yard field goal from Joey Slye to cut the lead down to two with under three minutes remaining in the third. 

Carolina's defense continued to struggle to get off the field on third down, which led to the Falcons extending the lead on a 11-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a three yard rushing touchdown by Todd Gurley. Younghoe Koo pushed the extra point just to the right of the upright, keeping it at a one score game, 25-17.

The Panthers finally came up with a defensive stop with roughly three minutes to go in the game, but were pinned inside their own five following the punt from Sterling Hofrichter.

Teddy Bridgewater connected with DJ Moore for 42 yards to get the Panthers in plus territory, but it all ended when Teddy Bridgewater threw an interception to Blidi Wreh-Wilson to seal the deal. Atlanta would take a knee to go on and win 25-17.

Carolina will be back in action on November 4th as they hit the road to take on the Super Bowl defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.

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