The Panthers were once again in it late, but once again as they have done basically the whole season, they were not able to pull it out against a good team.
Sunday it was the Atlanta Falcons’ turn to break the hearts of the Cats, as Behind Michael Turner’s 27-carry, 139-yard, two-touchdown performance, the Falcons got back to .500 with their third victory of the season with a 31-17 win.
The 35:22 run to pass ratio was a testament to the outstanding offensive line play of the Falcons, and the fact the Panthers had issues all day getting off the field with the Falcons run game.
“It started with the O-line. They came out with a nasty attitude today, that they were going to move the line of scrimmage,” Turner said. “I love to see green, man. You give me some space, I’ll do what I do.”
Three timely interceptions of Cam Newton, coupled with four touchdowns in five red zone trips, the Falcons clearly showed signs of turning around their season. More importantly, the Falcons got their identity back, which is: running the football.
“We need to get our identity back, and that starts with running the football,” Turner said. “We want to bury teams, not just let up.”
Newton totaled 237 yards on 21-of-35 passing, but he threw three interceptions. He also tallied 50 yards and a score on the ground.
Steve Smith recorded 66 yards on five receptions for the Panthers (1-5), who have dropped three straight.
Jonathan Stewart ran for 48 yards and a score on seven carries, while DeAngelo Williams added 44 yards on 12 rushes in the setback.
Down 14-10, the Panthers engineered a 13-play, 80-yard march to start the second half. Carolina converted four third downs on the possession, which took 8:32 off the clock and concluded with Newton’s 14-yard scamper to paydirt.
On a series which bled into the final quarter, Matt Bryant tied the game at 17-17 with a 24-yard field goal less than a minute into the fourth. Charles Johnson sacked Ryan on a 3rd-and-goal from the two to set up the boot.
After Carolina went three-and-out, Atlanta took over at its own 40-yard line. Ryan finished off the 10-play drive with a quarterback sneak from the one to put the Falcons back on top, 24-17, with exactly seven minutes to play.
On Carolina’s second play, Corey Peters intercepted Newton on an attempted screen pass and the Falcons took over at the Panthers’ 41-yard line. Eight plays and five minutes later, Turner’s two-yard score put the game away.
The Panthers put together one last drive, but Thomas DeCoud picked off Newton in the end zone on the last play of the game.
Carolina got on the board first as Olindo Mare’s 42-yard field goal split the uprights. Newton picked up two critical third downs on the possession. He scrambled for 12 yards on a 3rd-and-6 from his own 30, and then found Legedu Naanee on a 3rd-and-9 at the Falcons’ 40 for a 14-yard gain. Smith also had a 17-yard reception on the 13-play, 64-yard drive.
Atlanta’s next drive was helped by a defensive pass interference penalty in the end zone on Charles Godfrey as his arms got tied up with White as he went up for the ball. The Falcons gained 37 yards on the infraction, and Turner rolled in from a yard out on the next play to make it 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Stewart concluded a nine-play, 81-yard march with a one-yard score on Carolina’s ensuing possession. Jeremy Shockey’s 31-yard reception into Atlanta territory and Naanee’s 17-yard catch to the hosts’ 14-yard line highlighted the drive.
Chris Gamble was then the guilty party as he was tangled up with White on the right sideline on the Falcons’ next drive. Once again the ball was placed on the one, and Ryan found Ovie Mughelli to put the Falcons back on top, 14-10, with 3:49 to go until halftime.
Carolina moved the ball to Atlanta’s 10-yard line on its next possession, but Newton was picked off by Brent Grimes to preserve the four-point margin at halftime.