The rain fell at Bank of America Stadium and so did the Atlanta Falcons. The Panthers put together one of their most complete games of the season in a satisfying 25-15 win over their NFC South division rivals to move to 3-7 on the season. And Carolina won in style, wearing a seriously awesome all-black uniform and helmet combo. Here are the key stats behind the win:
2 key blocks - The Panthers led 3-0 with 4:43 remaining in the second quarter with the ball at the Atlanta 41. Both teams had struggled to move the ball in slippery, wet conditions. On second-and-8 Laviska Shenault came in motion and PJ Walker threw a backward swing pass (which counted as a run) to him as Shenault headed toward the left sideline. DJ Moore and Terrace Marshall Jr. threw two perfect blocks to spring Shelanult down the sideline for an electric touchdown. Laviska gets the glory, but Moore and Marshall made it happen.
130 yards - D’Onta Foreman strapped the offense to his back with 31 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers powerful running back has now exceeded 100 rushing yards in three of his last four games. Foreman runs with ferocity and his play takes at least some of the sting out of trading away Christian McCaffrey. And credit to the Panthers offensive line, too, for their solid play opening holes in the run game.
12 tackles, 2 sacks - Frankie Luvu was a man possessed with 12 tackles and two sacks. It was Luvu’s third double-digit effort in his last seven games. The fifth-year linebacker has already registered a career high with 56 tackles, tied a career-high with three sacks, and recorded his first interception. Luvu is the heart of the Panthers defense and his two-year, $9 million contract is a bargain.
10 penalties - While it was a great game overall for the Panthers, it wasn’t flawless by any means. Specifically, Steve Wilks’ troops repeatedly shot themselves in the feet with harmful and untimely penalties. In all the Panthers were flagged 10 times for 89 yards, including eight flags in the second half. Xavier Woods was ejected after two unnecessary roughness penalties. Rookie left tackle Ikem Ekwonu was called for two false starts and two holding penalties (one was declined). Carolina’s penalties helped keep the Falcons in the game longer than they should have been.
2 clutch sacks - Marquis Haynes Sr. has been quiet this season, but he made some serious noise late against the Falcons. Carolina led 22-15 with 2:05 left in the game. Atlanta had the ball second-and-11 from their own 33 when Haynes came up with a huge sack for a seven yard loss. Two plays later Atlanta faced a desperate fourth-and-18 from their own 26 with the game on the line. It was then that Haynes came up with another sack that essentially ended the game. Clutch.
The overall summary
I rarely get the chance to attend Panthers games but was able to go to this one. Now, when I bought my ticket earlier this year I expected Baker Mayfield, Christian McCaffrey, and a .500-ish Panthers team angling for the playoffs on a mild November evening. Instead I got PJ Walker, D’Onta Foreman, and one of the worst teams in the league playing in a downpour.
And I loved what I got! Despite the weather it was a great atmosphere at Bank of America Stadium.
I might sound like a broken record at this point, but I hate tanking and wish to call down the football gods’ punishments on teams that blatantly lose. Culturally, I think losing begets more losing and that’s a tough culture to reverse. When rebuilding it’s okay to drop games as long as teams are competitive, show enough promise to be good in a year or two, and develop their young talent.
The Panthers were both competent and competitive in this win over the Falcons. The young guys are progressing. The offensive line looks settled. Let’s just enjoy this win and appreciate the foundation the Panthers are establishing during this often meandering rebuild.
Carolina now gets a few extra days of rest and preparation before going on the road for a tough game against the 6-3 Baltimore Ravens.