At the end of a 3:26 drive featuring two runs of more than 15 yards by rookie Ito Smith, the Falcons capped off 21 unanswered points with a Matt Ryan rushing touchdown to go head 24-14. It was a demoralizing drive where the Falcons looked to have kept the momentum throughout halftime and were ready to bang nails into the Panthers coffin. Everything was going wrong. The defense was getting gashed and the offense sputtered into the fourth quarter. Even when Cam Newton engineered a five minute drive that ended with a missile of a pass and a great catch by Torrey Smith to pull within seven points, the Falcons immediately charged down the field to pull back ahead by two touchdowns. The team looked tired, the commentators continuously described Cam Newton as frustrated, and the Falcons plain looked like the better football team.
Luke Kuechly remarked after the game, “You’re down two scores and you can hang ‘em up if you want to. But this team won’t do that, has never done that and is not going to do that moving forward.” Carolina’s didn’t hang them up. We “just kept fighting,” Torrey Smith said after the game. They kept pounding.
It wasn’t an easy road nor one that ended ideally, but Carolina scrapped all the way to the end. Even after any momentum that came with the touchdown to Smith was lost with an interception that bounced off of CJ Anderson’s face, “there was no quit” Smith later described.
Cam Newton screamed “we ain’t going anywhere” into the stands after a 96-yard drive that ending with 51-yd touchdown pass to DJ Moore to pull Carolina within one score. The Panthers defense finally managed a three and out to give Carolina’s offense a chance to tie it with 1:48 left on the clock.
The final drive, which was heroic and heartbreaking, ended with a final Hail Mary pass that DJ Moore nearly pulled off laying on the ground amidst several Falcon defenders. Despite Carolina falling, Jarius Wright rallied some of the younger players, stating, “We can build off of that. We showed the character of the guys we have in this locker room.”
Carolina’s defense didn’t play well today and the offense got in their own way at times. This team didn’t roll over, however. They kept pounding, which should give us some optimism about how this team is determined to fight through adversity that we have seen in a litany of injuries to begin the season and in this bitter loss to the Falcons.
By Tony Dunn
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