Not a good day for the Carolina Panthers… again… and this time they could not pull themselves out of it. Carolina’s once-vaunted defense can inexplicably no longer stop the run, as Michael Turner’s dominating 4 touchdowns will attest. The Atlanta Falcons handily beat the Panthers 45-28, at home in the Georgia Dome, where they have been almost unbeatable this season.
Atlanta thoroughly dominated Carolina on both sides of the ball in the first two quarters, and the Panthers valiantly tried to come back after the break, but to no avail. The Falcons were not going to accept two home losses in a row, and Carolina could not overcome their lousy start, trailing 17-0 for much of the first half.
The Panther offense seemed to flutter most of the afternoon, save for a Jake Delhomme 12-yard rushing touchdown, and one each for Muhsin Muhammad and DeAngelo Williams. The highlights include Steve Smith making 8 receptions for 168 yards, however he had a few costly drops; DeAngelo Williams rushed for over a 100 yards again this week, with 19 rushes for 101 yards, while rookie Jonathan Stewart was held to 15 yards on 5 carries.
After falling behind 17-3 at the half, they managed to get things going initially in the third quarter, with an 80-yard drive which led to a Williams touchdown. Jake Delhomme and Smith connected for 41 and 22 yards on the drive, as well. On Carolina’s next possession they managed to chew close to 6 minutes off the clock and march down to the 2, but the mojo of the first half seeped back in, and the Panthers only put 3 on the board.
After hitting Steve Smith for 27 and 15 yards, and tight end Dante Rosario for 21, Delhomme ran the ball in 12 yards himself for a score, and the DeAngelo Willams 2-point conversion was successful, getting them as close as 24-21 early in the 4th.
However, Atlanta answered back with a Michael Turner 1-yard rush for a score of their own, and they weren’t done by a long shot. Carolina goes 3 and out on their next possession, and Jason Baker’s punt is returned 61 yards for a Harry Douglas touchdown, with 5 minutes and change left in the 4th. Douglas, however, received a 15-yard penalty for taunting Baker as he was trying to run him down.
Carolina never gave up, and desperately tried to salvage the game. Delhomme threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Muhammad with 2:30 left in the game, to make it 38-28. The lead became insurmountable even for Cardiac Cats, as Turner added another TD to his collection, and during the game also went over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.
Matt Ryan threw no touchdowns in the contest, but with Michael Turner having a career day, there was no need. The stellar rookie quarterback went 17/27 for 259 yards, with no picks. Jake Delhomme completed 21 of 35 passes for 295 yards, with 1 touchdown, 1 rushing touchdown, and no picks.
Atlanta managed to keep themselves in playoff contention with the division win, and now Carolina is sitting on a tie for first place with Tampa Bay.