The Carolina Panthers may be eliminated from playoff contention, but they weren’t going to stop competing. Not even a non-stop rainstorm at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina would stop them from competing, especially against the Atlanta Falcons.
Both teams turn the ball over on downs to start the game. The Falcons had a great mix of runs from (running backs) Tyler Allgeier & Bijan Robinson, as well as (quarterback) Desmond Ridder completing passes to (tight ends) Tucker Fisk & Kyle Pitts. While they made it into Panthers territory, Robinson was stopped on 3rd & 4th down in short-yardage situations.
The Panthers had a strong run from (running back) Chuba Hubbard to enter Falcons territory. After a pass from (quarterback) Bryce Young to (wide receiver) Adam Thielen, Hubbard was stopped, just like Robinson. The first quarter would continue, as both teams went 3 and out on their next possessions. The Falcons tried to get something going, as Allgeier picked up a 1st down. However, a negative run from (running back) Cordarrelle Patterson would impede their process & ultimately force them to punt. The quarter ended with the Panthers going 3 and out, again.
The second quarter nearly started out disastrous for the Falcons, as Ridder fumbled the ball, during the snap. Thankfully, (fullback) Keith Smith recovered the ball. However, the Falcons were forced to go out 3 and out. The Panthers were forced to go 3 and out for the 3rd possession in a row, thanks to a false start penalty & (Falcons defensive lineman) Calais Campbell sacking Young.
Though Ridder earned one 1st down, thanks to Robinson & (wide receiver) KhaDarel Hodge, he couldn’t pick up another one & the Falcons punted for the 4th time in a row. The punt was muffed by (Panthers wide receiver) Ihmir Smith-Marsette, but he was able to recover the ball. Despite gaining yards on every play, thanks to Hubbard’s run & Young completing a pass to (wide receiver) Jonathan Mingo, the Panthers were 3 and out for the 3rd time & like the Falcons, punted for the 4th possession in a row. It looked like the the first half of the game would be scoreless, but the Falcons turned things around. Ridder completed a 56-yard pass to (tight end) Jonnu Smith to set up the 1st red zone trip for either team.
With 1st & goal at Carolina’s 7-yard line, Robinson ran for 5 yards. Then, Ridder shovel passed to Patterson for a 2-yard touchdown, followed by (kicker) Younghoe Koo making the extra point. The Panthers had a great drive going, with runs from Smith-Marsette, (running back) Miles Sanders, & Hubbard, as well as passes from Young to (tight end) Stephen Sullivan, Thielen, & Hubbard. Though they were in the red zone (having a 1st & goal at Atlanta’s 10-yard line), a critical sack by (Falcons defensive lineman) Zach Harrison forced the Panthers to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Eddy Piñeiro. The Falcons led 7-3, at halftime.
The third quarter started great for the Panthers, as (Falcons punter) Bradley Pinion kicked the ball out of bounds, putting them at the 40-yard line. Then, Hubbard ran into Falcons territory. However, thanks to 2 negative plays in a row, the Panthers turned the ball over on downs, after Thielen was a yard short of a 1st down. The Falcons started their second half with a great pass from Ridder to Pitts, but a 2nd unforced fumble…this time recovered by (offensive lineman) Ryan Neuzil…led them to punt.
The Panthers started their next drive strong with runs from Hubbard & Young. However, (Falcons defensive lineman) nearly put an end to that with a sack-fumble, but Young was able to recover the ball. A pass interference call against (Falcons cornerback) AJ Terrell on 3rd down temporarily gave the Panthers some respite, but a holding call would eventually lead to a punt. While fumbles happened, there were no turnovers…until the next Falcons possession. After Patterson ran for no gain & Ridder threw an incomplete pass, Robinson fumbled after he was tackled by (Panthers cornerback) Troy Hill. The ball was recovered by (Panthers linebacker) Brian Burns. Smith-Marsette had a run & a catch to end the quarter.
The fourth quarter started with the Panthers in the red zone. Smith-Marsette had another good run, but the Panthers couldn’t go past Atlanta’s 4-yard line, especially after Hubbard lost 3 yards on the next play. Piñeiro made a 25-yard field goal. The Falcons got decent field positioning, after the kickoff. Burns was called for roughing the passer. Allgeier had some solid runs and Ridder threw some good passes to (wide receiver) Drake London & Pitts. However, while they were in the red zone, Ridder threw an interception to (Panthers safety) Xavier Woods.
Hubbard & Smith-Marsette had runs to set Young up. Young completed passes to (tight end) Tommy Tremble, Mingo, (wide receiver) DJ Chark, & Sanders. After a couple of kneel downs from Young & a time out, Piñeiro made a 23-yard field goal, as time expired. The Panthers won, 9-7.
For the victorious Panthers, Young completed 18 out of 24 passed for 167 yards. Hubbard had 22 runs for 87 yards. Thielen had 4 catches for 43 yards. Though it wasn’t pretty, the few fans in attendance got to see a Panthers win. Next up, they will spend Christmas Eve hosting the Green Bay Packers (who were defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 34-20, yesterday).