The rain and wind promised to set the Falcons up for some success, considering they’re a team that likes to run the ball. When Carolina came out ready to stop Atlanta on the ground, things quickly went awry for the Falcons, and unfortunately that lasted much of the night.
The Falcons have now played four shaky games in a row, losing to the Bengals, Chargers, and Panthers and winning one against the Panthers where they needed some unbelievable circumstances to come away with the victory. It’s fair to say that as admirably as this team has played and as resilient as they’ve been, we might be hitting the upper limit of what they can manage this year with this roster, which is perfectly fine. That didn’t make it any easier to watch them lose to the Panthers, though.
The game Thursday night suggested we’ve seen that ceiling. D’Onta Foreman ran all over them again, the secondary struggled, and the offense couldn’t consistently do much of anything much of the night. With Younghoe Koo missing two extra point attempts on top of that, Atlanta just didn’t do enough to win the game, and the totality of the effort was borderline embarrassing, especially against a Panthers team that really isn’t very good. The Falcons started this season in impressive fashion, but obviously if they’re going to finish this year strongly, they’ll need to figure out how to get the offense humming and the defense more consistent here over the final six games.
Here’s a drive-by-drive recap of the game you just watched, in case you’re too wide awake and need to run through it again, you masochist.
Carolina deferred and Atlanta got the ball, with Cordarrelle Patterson returning it, but a hold called on Atlanta. Patterson also got the opening handoff, picking up three yards. Marcus Mariota threw it into the dirt on second down, and a flag on Jake Matthews that was declined. Mariota did find Kyle Pitts on third down, though, for a first down. Caleb Huntley got nowhere on first down and Patterson only got a couple on second down, and then Mariota threw a short dumpoff to Tyler Allgeier for no gain. Punt.
D’Onta Foreman picked up a few yards on first down, and then a few more on second down, and then a couple more on third down. A short Foreman run set up a sideline throw to D.J. Moore where he had a ton of room to operate, and then the Panthers picked up a first down on a run. Timothy Horne blew up a run and then P.J. Walker threw an iffy ball that Darren Hall nearly picked off, and his third down pass went to a player not even looking for it. That set up a field goal attempt by Eddy Pineiro, which was good off the doink. 3-0 Panthers.
We kicked things off with a short Mariota run. then Allgeier getting tackled in the backfield, then Mariota connecting on a first down pass to Damiere Byrd. Mariota tried to hit Byrd again but he was out of bounds, but he got KhaDarel Hodge for a first down. A pair of unproductive runs—bad blocking!—turned into a first down catch by Kyle Pitts that wasn’t owing to a hold on Colby Gossett. On third and long, Mariota threw a fluttery pass near the end zone that was nearly picked off, and Gossett was called for another hold. Punt.
One unproductive play, then a long first down run by Foreman. A pass to Laviska Shenault and a short pass later, we had the second quarter.
Walker started things off with a first down run. Foreman got four, and then he picked up an easy first down on a play where nobody got in his way for nearly 10 yards. Two runs later, Walker hit D.J. Moore for a first down. Carolina inched closer to the end zone, and then Ta’Quon Graham was down on the field. Graham did come back, though, and the Falcons defense came up with a killer stop via a Dee Alford third down sack. Punt.
Allgeier ran it, and despite some superlative efforts to keep moving forward, he fell just short. The Falcons punted again.
A short pass picked up a few yards, and then Walker hit Shenault behind the line of scrimmage on a first pass and Shenault hit the gas for an easy touchdown. 10-0 Panthers.
Mariota kept scrambling in the face of pressure, with an incomplete on first down and unfortunately an interception to Jaycee Horn on second down. Carolina ball.
The Panthers dithered a bit, but they did enough to get in field goal range. 13-0 Panthers.
The Falcons got a quick strike to Drake London and an unnecessary roughness call, which got them moving. A high throw was reeled in by Olamide Zaccheaus for another first down, and then Avery Williams picked up another first down. The Falcons used quick passes to London and Cordarrelle Patterson to get in field goal range, and then Younghoe Koo hit one as the half expired. 13-3 Panthers.
The Panthers had the ball, and on first down, they got a first down with Terrace Marshall that was fumbled and recovered by the Falcons, except it was ruled an incomplete pass. An unnecessary roughness call on Carolina backed things up, however. A Foreman run and a Shenault drive forced a quick punt.
The Falcons didn’t get much with Patterson on the first play, but Mariota took off running on second down and went for a long way, with five yards added on the end of the play thanks to a hold. Patterson got nine on the next run, and then Tyler Allgeier picked up the first...until a hold on the offense backed things up. Things devolved from there, with Mariota trying to find a way to do something and running out of bounds instead. Falcons punt.
Carolina got nowhere, with multiple penalties and not much in the way of yardage. Punt.
Mariota threw it high for Pitts on first down. On second down, a pass interference call helped Atlanta get a first down. Allgeier got a few yards, then powered his way to a first down, followed by Huntley picking up a first on a nice move and plenty of power. On the next play, Mariota had his best throw of the night, putting it up for London for a touchdown to bring Atlanta within a score, but then Koo missed the extra point. 13-9 Panthers.
Walker hit Marshall for 43 yards on first down, and a nice run put the Panthers at 2nd and 2 before a holding call backed them up. A Shi Smith first down grab where he was wide open, plus an 8 yard run by Walker, got Carolina in the red zone. Then D’Onta Foreman got space and jogged into the end zone, making it a 10 point game. A missed extra point kept it to a 10 point game, at least. 19-9 Panthers.
Mariota found Zaccheaus for a first down and then some, but then things quickly stalled out.
Suffice to say the pressure came in frequently and Mariota’s third down heave had no shot as he was being blitzed. Punt, and a short one at that.
The Panthers picked up a quick first down via Foreman, and a questionable Abdullah Anderson holding call made it worse. Foreman continued to bully the Falcons en route to several more big runs, but a couple of run stops and a near Dee Alford interception forced them to settle for a field goal try. 22-9 Panthers.
Six yards, a miss on second down, a third down takedown before a rolling Mariota threw it into the air for no reason and would’ve been picked off had he not hit the ground first. On fourth down, with the Falcons trying to do something and salvage the night, Mariota was sacked by Brian Burns. Turnover on downs.
The Panthers didn’t get much going and they punted again, with Atlanta getting the ball back deep in their own territory on the punt.
Mariota missed on first down, found London for seven on second down, and then Mariota scrambled for a first down. Mariota somehow got the ball away before being sacked to Allgeier, but it was a loss of six. Things picked up from there, with Mariota chaining some completions and finding Hodge for a touchdown with less than three minutes left to make it a one score game. Unfortunately, Koo missed again and the Falcons were down by seven. 22-15 Panthers.
The Panthers didn’t do much and had to punt. I’d add more detail, but frankly, you don’t need it.
The Falcons did well on first down, but unfortunately Mariota was sacked on second down for a nine yard loss. On third down Mariota missed Zaccheaus over the middle, and on fourth down Kaleb McGary appeared to not know who he was blocking and allowed pressure that led to Mariota being sacked. Turnover on downs.
The Panthers just needed to burn time, and they did it effectively despite yet another penalty. They got within field goal range to make it 25-15 Panthers.
One more solid Allgeier run ended the night.