It was a heartbreaking moment when the Carolina Panthers lost in the fourth quarter to the Atlanta Falcons earlier this season. They had been playing an incredible game, and were ready knock off division leader Atlanta from its high horse. However, yesterday, justice was served. The Panthers stunned the league with a 30-20 win over the Falcons in what was a dominating performance by the Carolina defensive and offensive teams. Winning the coin toss for the first time this season was a good omen, we guess.
The week leading up to the game had been filled with trash talk as the intensity between southeast rivals Carolina and Atlanta built up. It didn’t help that the Panthers held against Falcons QB Matt Ryan some statements that he apparently made when Carolina lost in Atlanta earlier this year. But the Panthers honored their trash talk by humiliating the now 11-2 Falcons in Charlotte yesterday.
Cam Newton threw for 287 yards and ran for a beautiful 72-yard touchdown, becoming the first player with 250 passing yards, over 100 running yards, a pass TD, and a run TD in the same game. It was a good North Carolina afternoon for the Panthers. The Panthers closed down the first half with a 16-0 lead, putting a touchdown and PAT in the first offensive drive but only working out three field goals for the remainder of the half. Even though a good lead, it wouldn’t have been the first time Atlanta had come from behind and snatch a win from defeat. The Panthers outgained the Falcons 270 to 35 in the first half—fifteen first downs to Atlanta’s two.
The Falcons answered in the second half with two touchdowns, but one failed two-point conversion which was challenged by Atlanta. Cam ran for a 72-yard touchdown, aided by WR Steve Smith along the way. Early in the fourth, on fourth-and-7, Matt Ryan was flushed out of the pocket and threw for a pick by LB Thomas Davis. The following Panthers drive concluded in a screen pass from Cam to DeAngelo Williams which pretty much sealed the deal, Williams running for a 53-yard touchdown.
The Falcons battle for every yard of the field in their final drive against a resolute Carolina defense. They did end up putting up one final touchdown, but the Carolina defense forced Atlanta to drain out the clock, as regulation time ended, Panthers 30, Falcons 20.
The Panthers have two games left on the road, San Diego and New Orleans, with a home game in between against Oakland. Is head coach Ron Rivera saved for the season? It’s really hard to tell at this point. The Carolina Panthers need to show that there is overall improvement taking place. Yesterday’s performance in Charlotte is definitely heading in the right direction.