The Falcons and Panthers square off in a meaningful December matchup for the first time in a number of years. Each is in the current Wildcard hunt, and looking to make their first postseason appearance since 2017.
While the Falcons have had an incredible back and forth series history against the Buccaneers and Saints, the Panthers are the division rival whom the Birds have generally beaten up on for the most part.
After winning the first matchup of this season the Panthers drew closer in the series history, which now sits at 33-20 in favor of Atlanta. That was Carolina’s second victory in the past three meetings, after the Birds had won eight of the previous nine before that.
The win which started that stretch of eight wins in nine came in December of 2015, when the Falcons handed the Panthers their only loss of that regular season, keeping them from joining the 2007 Patriots in the exclusive 16-0 club.
One year earlier, Carolina secured a late December victory in Atlanta which was just as sweet, when they won 34-3 at the Georgia Dome in what was a Week 17 game where the winner would reign supreme at the top of the NFC South.
That had also marked Carolina’s third consecutive victory over their I-85 rivals, which to this day is the most they have ever strung together in this series. Atlanta’s longest win streak was six games, between 2000-2002 (three consecutive years of sweeps).
The most lopsided win the Panthers have ever enjoyed over the Falcons came just two weeks before Atlanta ended their undefeated season in 2015. It was a 38-0 mauling. Atlanta’s most lopsided victory was a 41-0 shellacking in 2002. The Falcons actually shut the Panthers out in both meetings in the 2002 season, winning the other game 30-0.
It was a Week 8 matchup earlier this season between a Falcons team that was coming off of back to back victories, and a Panthers team that had lost four consecutive games.
The wheels had begun falling off the Sam Darnold experiment, Christian McCaffrey was out, but the Panthers proved that all situations can be mitigated if you win the war in the trenches. Carolina didn’t do a great job of finishing drives — they had 12 points on four field goals through three quarters — but their offensive line ground Atlanta’s front seven into dust, and their 11 minute advantage in time of possession proved to be impactful.
Despite the fact that Darnold didn’t have a good game passing the ball, Carolina racked up a monstrous 203 rushing yards on 47 carries. Conversely, Atlanta’s offensive line couldn’t keep the Panther front seven from getting to Matt Ryan, allowing three sacks and a number of QB hits and pressures.
Other than a valiant effort from Cordarrelle Patterson on a second quarter touchdown catch, the Falcons were unable to find the end zone, and they put up a minuscule 13 points overall. Outside of what amounted to a garbage time field goal, they were shut out in the second half, a fate they’ll hope to avoid this time out.