The Falcons came to Charlotte on Thursday night looking to reclaim the lead in the NFC South. Instead, they left and were defeated and defeated, not only by the remnants of rain from Hurricane Nicole, but by their rival Panthers. Neither side was particularly inspiring in such filthy conditions, but while Arthur Smith’s attack failed until the last minutes, with Marcus Mariota practically begging Desmond Ryder to replace him for every other game on the field, Carolina did indeed show spurts in life. Led by interim coach Steve Wilkes, the 100-yard night of D’Onta Foreman, as well as a fierce performance from their defensive line, netted a 25-15 victory.
The Panthers improved to 3-7 with the win, and 2-3 since Wilks replaced Matt Rhule on the sidelines. P.J. Walker reprized his primary role under Victory Center, though he remained in the background while Carolina bowed out on the run. Meanwhile, Mariota broadcast it more inexplicably than usual in Atlanta, taking a number of ill-advised deep shots as the Hawks fell to 4-6, behind the Buccaneers to the south.
Here are some more points from Thursday night’s division competition:
Why did the Panthers win?
They played exactly the kind of football you’re supposed to play when hurricane rain invades the event. D’Onta Foreman was the definition of the spine despite Chuba Hubbard’s comeback from injury, and he tackled 31 stands like a pro, always moving forward and finishing at 130 yards and with a hard-earned score. His clock-changing efforts took the burden off P.J. Walker, who was an early on but settled as a background sponsor for the offense. Steve Wilkes’ defense was the real winner, though, after Marcus Mariota all night. On a relatively quiet evening for Brian Burns, everyone partyed, with Chuck Thompson, Derek Brown, Frankie Love and Marquis Hines together for four sacks and nine tackles to lose. This whole unit played with confidence, using the weather to its advantage, and topped the near win in a short week.
Why did the hawks lose?
Youngwi Koo missed two extra points in the rain – a first for him in his prestigious youth career – but Atlanta’s problems went beyond the specials. The main issue: Arthur Smith’s attack, which Cordarelli Patterson early dismissed, was inexplicably heavier while going through the rain, and had one of Mariota’s worst performances in a season full of questionable outings. QB showed the fight late, dragging the match within the score, but only after throwing a poor interception (and at least three other picks) while forcing Kyle Pitts to unexpected throws. In the end, Atlanta’s ‘D’ value waned in the race, which also allowed a big Laviska Shenault TD on a swing pass, but this was mostly the case for Smith’s group failure when it mattered most, finishing 3 of 13 in 3rd or 4th down Play.
Up 13-9 in the third quarter, the Panthers just allowed the Falcons to get close with a Mariota TD pass to Drake London. But then, after two games in the subsequent series, Carolina gained 43 yards in a short pass to Terrace Marshall Jr., who threw multiple tackles to push the Panthers into the 40 in Atlanta. Driving scored 13 yards from Foreman to confirm their forever lead.
play the game
The Panthers showed early on that they could make Mariota uncomfortable, no more evident than when pressure forced the Hawk QB to roll left, out of the jeep, and then tossed it deep—into the waiting arms of Jesse Horn:
The Panthers (3-7) will hit the road in Week 11 to take on the Ravens (6-3), who are on their farewell after defeating the Saints in prime time. In the meantime, the Falcons (4-6) will return home to host the Bears (3-6), who play against the Lions this weekend.
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