With Teddy Bridgewater leading the way vs. Falcons, the Panthers are in first place
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The Panthers' offense started against a winless Falcons team looking unlike the offense that dominated the Cardinals last week.
Despite almost doubling the Falcons' time of possession in the first quarter, the Panthers put up only three points and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater struggled to connect with his favorite target, Robby Anderson, as the wide receiver caught one of four targets for 12 yards.
But in the second quarter, the Panthers' offense exploded. Bridgewater threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns in the quarter alone. In the first half, he put up 261 total yards — the most by any quarterback this season.
Despite a rocky second half, the Panthers were able to put together a 14-play, 7:39 drive — ending with a 22-yard Joey Slye field goal — after a game-changing interception by safety Juston Burris in the end zone, the' offense, to put away the Falcons. Carolina won, 23-16, beating the Falcons in Atlanta for the first time since 2014.
Despite injuries to three of Carolina’s defensive starters — defensive end Brian Burns, cornerback Donte Jackson and defensive tackle Kawann Short — the Panthers improved to 3-2, and moved into a tie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for first place in the NFC South.
It wasn’t pretty, but with a lack of mistakes and a struggling Falcons team, for the Panthers, once again, it was enough. And they can thank their quarterback for carrying the load.
The game began on two sour notes with the Panthers' offense going three-and-out to start the game and then Jackson’s lingering toe injury sidelining him on the first defensive series. Rookie Troy Pride Jr. filled in for Jackson and played well overall.
Despite the offensive miscues, the Panthers got wide receiver Curtis Samuel involved in the offense early, including three third-down catches. Samuel has 11 catches on third down this season and helped the Panthers up their first points of the day, a 38-yard Slye field goal.
Anderson and Bridgewater started getting in a rhythm in the second quarter, connecting on 5 of 6 targets for 74 yards, including an impressive one-handed catch along the left sideline as his right arm was pinned down by a defender.
The Panthers' defense almost put up a touchdown of its own prior to the offense getting into the end zone. Burns strip-sacked Ryan — Burns' second such play of the season — but Burris failed to pick up the fumble despite being next to the football and the Falcons recovered. Burns went out with his concussion injury on the next play.
But the offense got the scoring going on the very next drive, compliments of running back Mike Davis, who finished the day with 16 rushes for 89 yards and nine catches for 60 yards and the touchdown.
Davis put together a strong second quarter with three carries for 23 yards and 28 yards on three receptions, including a 3-yard, wide-open touchdown. But it was DJ Moore’s 57-yard touchdown, his first of the season and the longest of his career, that gave Carolina their first lead of the game, 13-7, and then Davis' touchdown put the team up by two scores, 20-7.
The Falcons came back in the second half with the Panthers' offense struggling to get anything going, but were unable to finish drives. Despite Atlanta taking three straight drives past Carolina’s 30-yard line, the Falcons settled for just 6 points on two Younghoe Koo kicks and the key end zone interception by Burris.
The Panthers did not turn the ball over and Bridgewater was not sacked once, finishing the game going 27 of 37 for 313 yards and 2 touchdowns.
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