The Week 8 Thursday Night Football game featured an NFC South divisional matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, NC. The teams met for the 54th time on Thursday, with the Falcons leading in the all-time series 32-19 entering the contest. The Panthers defeated Atlanta in their Week 5 meeting 23-13, and came into the game 3-4 on the season. The Falcons came into Week 8 with a record of 1-5. Remnants of Hurricane Zeta were passing through Charlotte during this game, and it made for a windy and rainy affair, ultimately having a huge impact on the game.
The First Half
Carolina won the coin toss and deferred possession to Atlanta and the Falcons finished out their opening drive with a 20-yard field goal kick by Younghoe Koo. Carolina put the first touchdown of the game on the board when Curtis Samuel rushed the ball 12 yards for the score, the fourth rushing touchdown of the wide receiver’s career. The Panthers took a 7-3 early lead with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
The Panthers’ defense held the Falcons to another field goal in the next drive, which Koo put it through the posts from 37 yards out, closing the gap to just one point, 7-6. On the next drive, Carolina went three-and-out to finish up the quarter.
Atlanta had possession of the ball to start the second, but lost it on the drive when Donte Jackson intercepted a Matt Ryan pass intended for Calvin Ridley. The Panthers capitalized on the interception when Teddy Bridgewater connected with Samuel for a 29-yard touchdown pass, and Carolina had an eight point lead at 14-6.
For the first time in the game, the Falcons put a touchdown on the board when Ryan rushed the ball 13 yards to paydirt. Once again, the Falcons were within one point of the Panthers, trailing 14-13 with eight minutes left in the first half.
Carolina could not muster anything else in the first half of the game. The Falcons closed out the half with their third field goal of the night when Koo kicked it through from 36 yards away. Atlanta had the lead going into halftime, 16-14
The Second Half
Bridgewater and his offensive line had the ball first to start the second half of the game. The possession nearly ended on a fumble recovery by Foyesade Oluokun for Atlanta, but the turnover was reversed upon review. The Panthers couldn’t convert on third or fourth down following the call, and gave the ball to the visitors after coming up empty.
Carolina’s defense held Atlanta to yet another field goal attempt in the Falcons’ first drive of the second quarter. Atlanta held onto the ball for almost five minutes before Koo put his fourth kick through from 29 yards out. Atlanta extended their lead to five points, 19-14.
Carolina nearly ended the next drive with their first three-and-out of the game, but they faked the punt and Jeremy Chinn took it 28 yards, giving the Panthers another chance to get to the end zone. Several plays later, Bridgewater was injured during a play when he took a hit to the knee after being tripped-up by Dante Fowler Jr. and then took a blow to the head from Charles Harris. Harris was disqualified from the game and the Panthers gained 15 yards.
P.J. Walker, the rookie backup quarterback for the Panthers, took to the field on the next play and Carolina finished the drive with a field goal. Joey Slye kicked it in from 39 yards and it was a two point game, 19-17 with three minutes left in the quarter.
Ryan and the offensive line kept the Panthers’ defensive line on the field for nearly eight minutes before Todd Gurley rushed the ball three yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Koo missed the the PAT and the Falcons led by eight points, 25-17 with 11:01 on the clock.
Bridgewater returned to the field at the end of the next Carolina possession, but the team failed to score. Atlanta spent almost five-and-a-half minutes in an attempt to put more points on the board while draining the clock. Eventually, they were forced to punt with 3:05 left in the game.
The Panthers were in possession of the ball at the two-minute warning, still trailing the Falcons by eight. They started on their own 32-yard line and with just over one minute to go, Bridgewater threw a pass intended for D.J. Moore that Blidi Wreh-Wilson picked off, essentially sealing the Falcons’ second victory of the season, 25-17.
Atlanta dominated in nearly every aspect of the game. They put 68 plays for 401 total yards on the books compared to Carolina’s 52 for 304 yards. The Falcons also amassed more passing yards, 270-157. The Panthers did record more rushing yards than Atlanta with 147 compared to 131. Each team was hit with six penalties: Atlanta for 63 yards and Carolina for 30. The weather played a big factor in this game, to the disadvantage of both teams, but especially for the Panthers and their defensive line. They spent 36:30 of the clock on the field against the Falcons’ offense.
The Falcons (2-6) will head home to Atlanta to face the Denver Broncos (2-4) on Nov. 8 while the Panthers (3-5) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (6-1) at Arrowhead Stadium.
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