CHARLOTTE (N.C.) — Thursday night’s match between the Atlanta Falcons & Carolina Panthers was marred by heavy rain caused by Tropical Storm Nicole.
11 days after beating the Panthers in an intense 37-34 overtime match at Atlanta, the Panthers won with a 25-15 win.
The Carolina Panthers are still relevant in the NFC South, so don’t be silly. The division, despite being as terrible as it has been, is still winnable. It is currently 3-7 and the Falcons won it on Thursday night. Carolina is just one-half games behind Tampa Bay (4-5), which it has already defeated. With a record of 1-1 against the Falcons, it is only one game behind Atlanta (4-6). Consider that the Panthers boast the best division record (3-1), and their remaining schedule is among the toughest in the NFL. The schedule for New Orleans is seventh most difficult, while the Bucs’ is 22nd. Again, don’t laugh. A 3-8-1 Carolina team won the South in 2014 and made it to the playoffs.
Promising trend: After a Week 6 loss against the Los Angeles Rams, the Panthers broke the 169 yard mark for the third consecutive time. They were averaging 135.7 yards per game, which is 11th in the NFL since Week 7. This number is rising after D’Onta Foreman’s rushing of 232 yards against Atlanta. His three games with at minimum 118 yards of rushing have included a win against Atlanta and a win against the Falcons. Carolina has the potential to play at least one game if it can keep running the ball and playing good defense.
QB breakdown: PJ Walker wasn’t great, but he was there on a night where the running game was at its peak. He did not play well enough to be able to take over the starting job against the Baltimore Ravens next week. In the first quarter, he didn’t see Stephen Sullivan open wide enough and his attempt to pass to DJ Moore in a goal zone was not intercepted. Carolina was out of range for field goals when he took a bad sack during the first half. The Panthers wanted him to run more, but he seemed hesitant. Sam Darnold is the next question, which could indicate that the Panthers are open to giving Sam Darnold another chance.
Bold prediction for next Week: The Panthers activate Darnold from injured reserve earlier in the week and make Walker the backup. Darnold will be the backup, while Baker Mayfield may be inactive or released. Darnold was just 4-7 last season as the starter. It will happen, no matter when it is next week or shortly after. The team could use him as a veteran player to mentor any quarterback they select in the 2023 draft.
Next game: at Ravens (1:00 p.m. ET, Sunday)
It’s just terrible.
This is the best way to describe Thursday night’s Falcons game. Nothing worked in prime time this season. It wasn’t even close.
The offense was ineffective. The defense was weak. Special teams saw Younghoe Koo, a kicker, lose two more points for the first-time in his career. The Falcons’ loss against the Panthers isn’t a huge blowout, but the Falcons rarely looked like they had any chance in the game.
Atlanta will regret another missed chance to win first place in a low division in a contest where they could have won first place.
Despite the fact that the Falcons aren’t out of anything due to the ineffectiveness and division, this does bring Atlanta back into the NFC South. So. Ugly.
Troubling trend: Thursday’s Marcus Mariota-Kyle Pitts disconnection continues. On the second play of game, Mariota made contact with Pitts. He couldn’t find his tight stop again until the end of the fourth quarter. Mariota, Pitts and their quarterbacks connected on 51% of their plays — the worst among any quarterback/tight end combination with at most 20 attempts. Thursday’s performance was not much better after only two catches for 28 yard on eight targets.
The biggest hole in the game plan was Atlanta’s loss to the Panthers two weeks ago. Foreman ran for three touchdowns and Atlanta knew that Carolina would be running it. It didn’t matter. On Thursday, the Panthers ran for 232 yard and completely destroyed Atlanta’s defense. Even though the Falcons cycled through linebackers in halftime with Rashaan Evans and Mykal Walker, it didn’t matter.
QB breakdown: More like broken down. Even though the stats in this game aren’t as bad, it was Mariota’s worst performance all season. His 19-of-30, 2 touchdowns, 1-interception and 186 yards stat line are below his average, but his play was even worse. His deep passes weren’t on target, a problem that has been recurring. And his decision-making was poor for the first time in 2022. Mariota’s poor performance was not helped by Drew Dalman’s low snaps and his shaky play on the offensive line.
There’s a silver lining: A cool moment for KhaDarelHodge. Hodge’s fifth NFL season was his 65th. He’s played on four different teams and was the career catch No. He scored his first goal at 41.
Next game: vs. Bears (1:00 pm. ET, Sunday)