When you looked at NFL schedule, there aren’t many people who can say they thought the Week Eight matchup between the Carolina Panthers and the Atlanta Falcons would be played with the NFC South division lead on the line. Yet here we are. Wins haven’t come in abundance for the Panthers but their lone two wins on the season hold weight – they came against divisional opponents. The Falcons came in 0-2 in the division, but would a win would make them the only team without a losing record in the NFC South.
Defense got off to a strong start with cornerback Donte Jackson intercepting Marcus Mariota on the second play of the game, but the offense could not capitalize. Eddy Pineiro capped the Panthers second drive of the day with a 37-yard field goal to put Carolina on the board. Atlanta responded with a 2-yard touchdown reception by tight end Kyle Pitts to take the lead. After a solid showing in last week’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, quarterback PJ Walker struggled to find his mark early, but heated up in the second quarter. Big throws to Terrace Marshall Jr and DJ Moore kept the drive alive and set up a 2-yard rushing touchdown by D’Onta Foreman to take a 10-7 lead with 4:51 left in the first half. Just before the halftime intermission, Walker was trying to set up the screen, but was picked off by linebacker Lorenzo Carter instead. Carter raced 28 yards for the pick 6 and lead 14-10 with under a minute left in the second quarter.
Coming out of the break, Carolina pulled to within one point after Pineiro connected on a 42-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Mariota and the Falcons responded with a 25-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Allgeier to take a 21-13 lead near the end of the third quarter. Extra effort by Foreman brought him the second of his three touchdowns on the day and the Panthers went back to him to the 2-point conversion to tie things up with 11:46 left in regulation. Then things got wild. A field goal by Younghoe Koo, answered by Foreman’s third touchdown made the score 28-24 in favor of the Panthers with 3:06 to play. Ironically, it was a huge play by former Panther Damiere Byrd that put Atlanta back on top. Byrd raced 47 yards to put the Falcons up three points with a little over 2 minutes to play. Koo added another field goal to grow the lead to 6 and all seemed lost. Carolina got the ball back with 36 seconds and no timeouts. Walker unleashed a 62-yard bomb to DJ Moore in the end zone to tie the game up with 12 seconds left. Moore was flagged for excessive celebration after taking his helmet off. The 15 yard penalty was enforced on the extra point attempt. Pineiro’s 48-yard PAT sailed wide left and the game headed into overtime.
In the extra period, the Panthers had another chance to end the game when cornerback CJ Henderson intercepted Mariota and returned it all the way to the Atlanta 20-yard line. A few plays later, Pineiro’s 32-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left. The Falcons marched down the field and won the game 37-34 with a 41-yard field goal by Koo. Walker finished 19-of-36 for 317 yards, one touchdown, and one interception en route to a 80.4 passer rating. Moore pulled in six receptions for 152 yards and one touchdown. Foreman was impressive rushing for 118 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Terrace Marshall, Jr. also had a solid showing with 87 yards on four catches. The loss drops the Panthers to 2-6 and they’re on the road again next week to face the Cincinnati Bengals.