CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A gentle rain fueled by Tropical Storm Nicole made for some messy circumstances in Thursday evening’s tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers.
The Panthers got here by means of with a 25-15 victory, 11 days after the Falcons beat the Panthers in a wild 37-34 time beyond regulation recreation at Atlanta.
Do not chuckle, however the Carolina Panthers stay related within the NFC South. As unhealthy as they have been, the division has been almost as unhealthy and is winnable for a group that’s 3-7 after Thursday evening’s victory over the Falcons. Carolina is just a game-and-a-half behind first-place Tampa Bay (4-5), a group it has already crushed. It is solely a recreation behind Atlanta (4-6) with a 1-1 report towards the Falcons. And contemplate, the Panthers have one of the best division report (3-1) and their remaining schedule is the twenty seventh hardest within the NFL. New Orleans’ schedule is the seventh hardest and the Bucs’ is twenty second. Once more, do not chuckle. In 2014, a 3-8-1 Carolina group gained its closing 4 to win the South after which a playoff recreation.
Promising pattern: The Panthers topped 169 yards dashing for the third time in 5 video games since buying and selling star working again Christian McCaffrey after a Week 6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. They entered Thursday averaging 135.7 yards, eleventh finest within the NFL, since Week 7. That quantity goes up after the group rushed for 232 yards towards Atlanta, and D’Onta Foreman is a giant motive. He is had three video games with at the least 118 yards dashing, topped by 130 towards the Falcons. If Carolina can proceed to run the ball and play good protection, it has an opportunity to at the least be in video games.
QB breakdown: PJ Walker wasn’t spectacular, however he did not should be on an evening when the working recreation was in excessive gear. However did he play effectively sufficient to maintain the beginning job subsequent week towards the Baltimore Ravens? He did not see tight finish Stephen Sullivan large open within the first quarter and was fortunate to not have his tried go to DJ Moore in the long run zone intercepted. He took a nasty sack within the first half that took Carolina out of area objective vary. He appeared hesitant to run, one thing the Panthers need him to do extra. Looming is Sam Darnold, a quarterback the Panthers is perhaps inclined to provide one other shot.
Daring prediction for subsequent week: The Panthers begin Darnold, activated from injured reserve earlier this week, towards the Ravens and make Walker the backup. At worst, Darnold is the backup and Baker Mayfield is both inactive or launched. The group actually needs to get a take a look at Darnold, who was 4-7 because the starter final season. It will occur in some unspecified time in the future, whether or not it is subsequent week or quickly after that. He is a participant the group may contemplate as a veteran to assist mentor no matter quarterback the group selects within the 2023 draft.
Subsequent recreation: at Ravens (1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday)
That is one of the simplest ways to explain the Falcons on Thursday night. In prime time for the primary time this season, nothing labored. Not shut.
The offense was ineffective. The protection was porous. Particular groups included kicker Younghoe Koo lacking two further factors for the primary time in his profession. And whereas the Falcons’ loss to the Panthers would not appear to be a blowout on the scoreboard, the Falcons very hardly ever seemed like they’d an opportunity within the recreation.
In a contest that after once more may have given them first place within the division and introduced them once more to .500, Atlanta will as an alternative lament one other missed alternative to attempt to get to first place in a poor division.
Whereas this does not put the Falcons out of something due to the ineffectiveness of the division, it does ship Atlanta again into the thick of the mess that’s the NFC South. So. Ugly.
Troubling pattern: The Marcus Mariota–Kyle Pitts misconnection continued Thursday. Mariota related with Pitts on the second play of the sport. Then he could not discover his tight finish once more till late within the fourth quarter. Mariota and Pitts entered the sport connecting on 51% of their passes — worst amongst any quarterback-tight finish mixture with at the least 20 makes an attempt — and Thursday did not enhance issues in any respect after simply two catches for 28 yards on eight targets.
Largest gap within the recreation plan: After enjoying the Panthers lower than two weeks in the past, when Foreman rushed for 3 touchdowns, Atlanta needed to know Carolina can be working the ball. And that didn’t matter. The Panthers ran for 232 yards on Thursday, utterly mowing by means of the Atlanta protection. The Falcons even cycled by means of linebackers within the first half with Rashaan Evans, Mykal Walker and Troy Andersen — and it didn’t matter.
QB breakdown: Extra like damaged down. This was the worst Mariota has seemed all season, even when the stats aren’t as unhealthy as in another video games. Whereas his 19-of-30, 186-yard, 2-touchdown, 1-interception (two others had been dropped) stat line is under common for him, his play was a lot worse. His deep passes weren’t on the right track (a constant situation), and for one of many first instances in 2022, his decision-making appeared equally poor. He wasn’t assisted by a number of low snaps from middle Drew Dalman and shaky offensive line play, but it surely was fairly a poor efficiency for Mariota.
Silver lining: Cool second for KhaDarel Hodge. In his fifth NFL season and sixty fifth NFL recreation, Hodge scored his first receiving landing. He has performed on 4 groups, and on profession catch No. 41, he acquired his first rating.
Subsequent recreation: vs. Bears (1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday)