Jake Delhomme had his best game of the season statistically throwing for 195 yards, 2 TDs finishing with a QB rating of 115.9. Coupled with a combined 173 yards and 2 touchdowns by DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart there was a remarkable improvement from the Panther offense seen in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, the Panthers' defense played well against a high powered Atlanta offense keeping Matt Ryan to 224 yards passing and intercepting the young QB twice.
It was a bright day in Charlotte, NC- except for one dark cloud.
More after the jump...Midway through the second quarter all-pro LT Jordan Gross was hit awkwardly on a block resulting in a broken right ankle leaving a major hole in the offensive line with Travelle Wharton filling in, but doing a less than mediocre job throughout the second half. Though there is no official diagnosis on how much time Gross will miss, it's my guess he will be put on IR in the morning as the Panthers look to sign an OL with very little cap space.
On the field, however, the Panthers as a whole shone brightly over Charlotte. The Falcons struck first with a field goal on their first drive, but the Panthers quickly answered with a dominant drive in which Jake Delhomme threw for 75 yards and was capped off by a 1 yard Jonathan Stewart TD run. Panthers 7 - Falcons 3
After stopping an Atlanta drive the Panthers struck again with Delhomme leading the Panthers down the field and throwing a perfectly placed pass to Steve Smith in the right corner of the endzone for the Panthers' second touchdown of the day. Panthers 14 - Falcons 3
Atlanta weren't going to take this game laying down driving down the field and scoring on a 1 yard Justin Snelling run. Snelling was in the game due to a high ankle sprain to RB Michael Turner early in the second quarter. Panthers 14 - Falcons 10
Carolina excecuted a perfect 4 minute drive with Jake Delhomme again finding Steve Smith on a 4 yard TD pass squeezed between two defenders. Smith was hit hard on the play and was slow in getting up, but it didn't limit the WR who merely left the field for halftime early. Panthers 21 - Falcons 10
After the halftime break it was clear Mike Smith's Falcons made some adjustments on both sides of the ball, similarly it seemed the Panthers made adjustments, being forced to scheme their blocking differently with the loss of Gross on the left side. The aforementioned replacement in Travelle Wharton was not reliable as the Falcons pass rush looked much better in the second half.
The third quarter only saw one score, a 24 yard FG by Jason Elam. Panthers 21 - Falcons 13
In the forth it appeared that the Panthers were reeling as the offense could not effectively move the ball continually punting to the Falcons. The Falcons scored on a 3 yard pass to TE Justin Peele, but failed to convert the tying 2 pt conversion. Panthers 21 - Falcons 19
Again the Panthers offense failed and after a 3 and out the Falcons had the opportunity to take the lead on a Jason Elam field goal, but the combination of a bad snap and poor kick caused Elam to kick the ball wide left and the score stayed unchanged.
The Panthers were not going to let another game slip through their fingers as quickly after the missed FG Jonathan Stewart barelled though the Falcons' defense for a 45 yard TD run. Without a timeout the Falcons were forced to throw deep and the Panthers managed to close out the game 28-19.
The 4-5 Carolina Panthers face the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night football, and hope to keep their hopes of a wild card alive, against the odds.