Gameday Live Blog / Open Thread: Panthers at Falcons

Scott Hamilton

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  • It's almost time for kickoff at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the game between the Carolina Panthers (5-7) and the Atlanta Falcons (3-9). This will be the 50th meeting between the teams, with Atlanta having a 31-18 edge. The Falcons have won seven of the last eight games against the Panthers, including a current run of four straight. The game is being played only about 18 hours since the completion of LSU's win over Georgia in the SEC Championship game. It's 48 degrees and mostly cloudy outside of the stadium.
  • The Falcons won the last meeting 29-3 on Nov. 17 at Bank of America Stadium, a game in which Carolina didn't score a touchdown since a 17-3 loss at Chicago on Oct. 22, 2017.
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NFC South standings
  • Neither team is going to the postseason. New Orleans has already clinched the NFC South Division and looking to secure the home-field advantage with four games remaining in the regular season.
  • Here are Carolina's inactives for today's game: DE Christian Miller, DT Woodrow Hamilton, TE Greg Olsen (concussion), OT Greg Little (ankle), OL Chris Reed, DT Stacy McGee, CB Corn Elder.
  • Meanwhile ...
  • There are so many things to consider regarding today's Panthers-Falcons game. Atop that list is that this will be the first game without Ron Rivera as head coach since a 31-10 loss at Atlanta on Jan. 2, 2011. Rivera was let go last Tuesday with four games remaining in his ninth season with Carolina. Secondary coach Perry Fewell was named interim coach. Fewell — a North Carolina native who played at Lenoir-Rhyne College — was also interim coach with Buffalo in 2009, leading the Bills to a 3-4 finish after Dick Jauron was fired. Quarterbacks coach Scott Turner has also taken over as offensive coordinator, while Norv Turner was named as a special assistant to the head coach.
  • And, of course, there are all of the takeaways from the last time Carolina played Atlanta. Carolina's offense didn't score a touchdown since a 17-3 loss at Chicago on Oct. 22, 2017. And it was shutout for the opening half for the first time since last season. Kyle Allen was intercepted four times while the Panthers failed to force a turnover. And while Carolina was able to sack Matt Ryan three times and held the Falcons to only 54 yards rushing, it still allowed Ryan to complete 21 of 31 passes for 311 yards and a touchdown. It was the eighth time that Ryan has thrown for at least 300 yards against the Panthers.

FIRST QUARTER

  • Falcons win the toss and receive.
  • Atlanta looking like it at least wants to try to establish the run. Freeman with three carries for 16 yards out of eight plays on opening drive. Drive still stalls at the Carolina 39. Falcons punting after three pre-snap penalties. But also nice pressure from Carolina early.
  • Hello (again), Greg Dortch. He's back on the roster and set to field first punt of the game. Lets the punt roll and Falcons pin Carolina at its own 1-yard line.
  • Actually the Panthers will get it on the 20 because a challenge (and review) showed the Falcons went out of bounds and came back in before touching the ball. 
  • Ryan 4-6 for 35 yards early. Becomes 10th player in NFL history with 50,000 yards passing.
  • Freeman gets loose on a 31-yard run, but it's called back. So they give it to Hill, who puts up runs of seven and 10 yards. First down Atlanta from the Carolina 35.
  • Butler gets to Ryan, loss of 11. But then Ryan hits Ridley and Freeman each for 11-yard passes.
  • Panthers hang in there, limit Falcons to 37-yard field goal. Drive was 13 plays, 55 yards, 6:54 of game time. Atlanta leads 3-0, 2:48 left in first quarter.
  • Dortch receives the kick ... and takes a knee.
  • Interesting: Curtis Samuel has been lined up in the backfield some already. Was a running back as Ohio State, drafted as a wide receiver. Has two carries for four yards
  • Allen hits Thomas on left side for a 19-yard game. Thomas filling in for Greg Olsen today.
  • First quarter ends with Allen scrambling to his right for four yards. Will be 3rd and six from the Atlanta 28.
  • Notable number of the quarter: Both teams are averaging more than five yards a play. And neither team has committed a turnover. So shouldn't this be an offensive shootout instead of a 3-0 game?

SECOND QUARTER

  • Allen incomplete pass. Joey Slye hits a 45-yarder to tie it 3-3 with 14:56 left in first half. Drive was nine plays, 47 yards, 2:56 of game time.
  • Shaq Thompson with a tackle of Freeman for a four-yard loss on third down. Thompson signed a four-year extension yesterday worth $54.2 million. Falcons punt, Carolina ball at its 10-yard line. 
  • Falcons get to Allen. Campbell gets him at the Carolina 26 for a nine-yard loss. Panthers punt, Atlanta to start at its 25.
  • Ryan to Hooper for 18, Ryan to Jones for 38 yards. First and 10 from the Carolina 18.
  • Ryan to Ridley for 15-yard touchdown. Seventh TD for Ridley, 21st for Ryan. Six plays, 74 yards, 2:03. Atlanta leads 10-3, 5:15 left in first half.
  • Touchback. Carolina starts at its 25.
  • Allen picked off. Was trying to get it to Ian Thomas, but bounces off Thomas' hands and picked up by Kazee. Atlanta ball at its 41.
  • Carolina defense holds, forces Atlanta to punt. Dortch fields it at the Carolina six, returns it seven yards. Panthers first and 10 from their 13. There's 2:34 left in the half.
  • Allen hits McCaffrey with a swing pass on the right side, gets 10 yards to the Carolina 23. McCaffrey has caught three of four targets for 26 yards and has five carries for 14 yards.
  • Allen to DJ Moore down the left sideline for 39 yards. First and 10 from the Atlanta 38, two-minute warning. Moore now has 1,033 yards receiving on the season.
  • Incomplete pass then McCaffrey for eight yards around left side.
  • McCaffrey again left side, this time for six yards.
  • Allen to right across the middle, 15-yard gain to the Atlanta nine.
  • McCaffrey right side for eight yards to Falcons' 1. Timeout Atlanta, 1:10 left in the first half.
  • Allen to Thomas for 1-yard touchdown. Nine plays, 97 yards, 1:28 of game clock. It's tied 10-10 with 1:05 left in first half. Third game in a row that Thomas has scored a touchdown -- scored in weeks 16 and 17 last year.
  • Falcons driving, now at the Carolina 21 after a 19-yard pass from Allen to Hardy.
  • Incomplete to Ridley, but Carolina's Burns busted for offsides. Two second remaining.
  • Koo kicks a 35-yard field goal, Atlanta takes 13-10 lead into halftime. Six plays, 58 yards, 1:05 of game clock.

HALFTIME

First-half analysis

  • Can see and feel a different rhythm to the offense with Scott Turner calling plays. More diversity in backfield and pass patterns. Three different players (aside from Allen) have carried the football.
  • Ian Thomas had the muffed pass that resulted in an interception, but he's otherwise had a nice half. Has caught three passes for 30 yards and a touchdown -- and a team-high six targets.
  • The Falcons are having much more success running the ball against Carolina's porous run defense. Atlanta has 78 yards rushing on 15 carries, led by Freeman with 60 yards on 12 carries.
  • Carolina's offensive line playing better, allowing only one sack in the first half. Still, Allen needs another second to improve on 11 of 19 passing for 154 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

THIRD QUARTER

  • Carolina ball at its 25.
  • Samuel a carry around left end for 13 yards then Allen hits Thomas for 19 yards.
  • Allen fumble. Beasley forces Allen to fumble for the 11th time and it's the seventh lost. Atlanta ball at the Carolina 46.
  • Meanwhile ...
  • Freeman gets it off left guard for three yards.
  • Ryan to Jones for 15 and a first down. Only Jones' second catch today, now has 1,003 receiving yards this season. Six seasons in a row with 1,000 yards.
  • Freeman again on the left side for three more yards to Carolina 25. 
  • Freeman right side, 13-yard touchdown. Five plays, 46 yards, 2:35. Atlanta leads 20-10 on Freeman's first rushing touchdown this season.
  • Dortch brings kickoff out of the end zone to the Carolina 20.
  • Back-to-back carries for McCaffrey. Third and one from the Carolina 30.
  • Allen keeps it around left side, gains eight. First down.
  • Third and five from the Atlanta 44 -- and Allen overthrows Samuel down the right side. Panthers punt, Atlanta ball at its nine-yard line.
  • Allen hits a wide-open Zaccheaus on a post pattern for 93 yards. Falcons take 27-10 lead with 6:30 left in third quarter. Three plays, 95 yards, 1:03. 
  • Dortch runs kickoff out of end zone -- and fumbles. Koo, the kicker, recovers for Atlanta at the Carolina 16.
  • Koo connects on a 29-yard field goal. Atlanta up 30-10, 4:55 left in the third quarter.
  • Panthers ball at their 20.
  • Allen sacked again. McKinley got him for an eight-yard loss at the Carolina 24. Three sacks for Atlanta today.
  • Panthers punting. Atlanta first and 10 at its 30. Goes three and out and punts.
  • Allen sacked again. And that's 12 fumbles for Allen.
  • And then Allen throws another interception, this time picked off by Kazee. Falcons ball at the Carolina 49 as the third quarter ends.

FOURTH QUARTER

  • Falcons have moved to the Carolina 33 in five plays, have more than 400 total yards.
  • Meanwhile ...
  • Falcons are living right. Koo hits right upright from 50 yards and it bounced in. Atlanta now leads 33-10 with 11:40 to play. 
  • Meanwhile ...
  • Allen hits Wright for a 10-yard touchdown -- but then it's nullified because of a holding penalty.
  • Atlanta gets Allen again, this time sacked by McKinley. Slye kicks a 42-yard field goal to make it 33-13 with 7:54 to play.
  • Falcons get the onside kick.
  • Five plays later it's first and goal for Atlanta at the Carolina 3.
  • Hill rolls in from three yards out for a touchdown. It's 40-13, 5:08 left.
  • Two-minute warning sounds shortly after Allen hits Zylstra for a seven-yard gain. Carolina will have first and 10 from the Atlanta 14.
  • Allen keeps it from 1-yard out for a touchdown. Atlanta leads 40-20 with 1:26 left to play. Drive was 13 plays, 75 yards, 3:42 of game time.
  • Falcons run out clock.

FINAL

Falcons 40, Panthers 20

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