The Carolina Panthers debuted their new, black helmets on top of an all-black uniform in their sole prime time game of the 2022 NFL season. The sleek combo fueled a surprisingly dominant performance on the ground and, ultimately, a big Panthers win.
The first quarter was comprised of most of four possessions. The Falcons punted, the Panthers drove for a field goal doink that was good, the Falcons punted, and the Panthers ran out the clock on the first quarter with the first four plays of a 15-play drive that ultimately ended in a punt halfway through the second quarter. They were penalized and then sacked out of field goal range.
The Panthers extended their lead to 10-0 following an actually effective screen play, officially recorded as a run, to Laviska Shenault Jr. The drive started it in plus territory for the Panthers following a Bradley Pinion shanked punt from the Falcons. The next Falcons possession following that score ended when Jaycee Horn picked off Marcus Mariota on third down and returned the ball to the Falcons side of the field.
That led to a 59-yard field goal off the boot of Eddy Piñeiro to take a 13-0 lead. The Falcons responded with a field goal drive of their own, electing to kick a 32-yard attempt on 3rd and 3 with 0:03 left on the clock. Improbably, things were looking up for the Panthers at the half.
The third quarter was a tale of penalties against both teams. Weather, overzealous refs, and a light lack of discipline all combined for a slow paced Falcons possession that resulted in a Drake London touchdown reception to bring Atlanta to within three points of the Panthers. Welp, or within four points as Younghoe Koo shanked the extra point. Panthers still had the lead half way through the third quarter, 13-9.
Carolina built on their lead thanks to a D’Onta Foreman touchdown run, at which point Piñeiro returned the favor to the Falcons and missed an extra point of his own. The Panthers led 19-9 at the end of the third quarter.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to spend 300 words of this recap strictly describing the back and forth scoring updates.
A quick punt from the Falcons to open the fourth quarter led to a nearly 6:00 field goal drive from the Panthers to put the score up to 22-9. It is worth noting that the Panthers have punted on only three of their right possessions. The other five have all been scoring drives. They would need more touchdowns to win against actual NFL teams, but this has been downright dominant play against an NFC South team.
A few more stalled drives ate up much of the rest of the fourth quarter. The Falcons were able to put together a quick touchdown drive, missed another extra point, and closed the Panthers lead to a 22-15 gap.
A quick, 13-second possession by the Panthers ended with another punt thanks to efficient timeout usage by the Falcons and gave the Falcons 2:33, the two-minute warning, and one timeout to try to take the lead. First and second down went backwards with a one- and eight-yard loss on consecutive plays. An incompletion on third down set up the Panthers for a Marquis Haynes sack on fourth down that effectively ended the Falcons comeback attempt.
The turnover on downs left the Panthers in field goal range once again which allowed them to put the game away with one last kick.
The Panthers won 25-15 on the strength of a ground game that produced 232 yards, including 130 by Foreman alone.