CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matt Ryan threw for 281 yards and ran for a touchdown, Younghoe Koo made four field goals and the Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 25-17 on Thursday night to avoid a series season sweep.
The Falcons (2-6) have had a penchant for squandering leads this season, coming into the game 1-3 when leading entering the fourth quarter. Carolina was driving late, but Atlanta stalled the rally when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted Teddy Bridgewater near the Falcons’ 10-yard line with 1:04 remaining.
Todd Gurley grinded out 46 yards rushing and a touchdown, Julio Jones added 137 yards receiving and the Falcons defence limited the Panthers to 2 of 10 on third down conversions to improve to 2-1 since Raheem Morris replaced Dan Quinn as head coach. The win came in front of a crowd of 5,240 due to COVID-19.
Bridgewater tried to spur Carolina to a comeback after Koo missed an extra point that would have made it a two-possession game.
Bridgewater, who was knocked out of the game for two possessions with a neck injury following a late hit that resulted Charles Harris being ejected, took over with the Panthers down by eight points. He completed a 35-yard strike to D.J. Moore on third and 18 to move the Panthers into Falcons territory. But Bridgewater’s pass was picked off by Wreh-Wilson when he threw a pass up in traffic near the end zone.
Bridgewater was limited to 176 yards passing as the Panthers (3-5) lost their third straight game without injured Christian McCaffrey.
The Falcons avenged a 23-16 loss to Carolina 18 days ago in which Bridgewater threw for 313 yards and two scores and Mike Davis piled up 149 yards rushing. Davis was held to 77 yards this time on a wet field where players routinely swapped cleats to adapt to the changing conditions.
Despite a number of penalties and lack of red zone production, the Falcons managed to build a 16-14 halftime lead behind a 13-yard touchdown run by Ryan and three field goals from Koo.
The Panthers had opened a 14-6 lead in the second quarter when Bridgewater found Curtis Samuel for a 29-yard touchdown pass on a well set up flea flicker. It was Samuel’s second TD of the half, scoring earlier on a 12-yard run up the middle to give Carolina its first lead.
The 24-year-old Samuel has three career games with a TD rushing and receiving, which trails only Jerry Rice (5) among wide receivers in the Super Bowl era.
Falcons: Wide receiver Calvin Ridley left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury after making a reception in the red zone and did not return. … Cornerback Kendall Sheffield left the game early with a head injury, but did return.
Panthers: Cornerback Donte Jackson’s lingering toe injury forced him to leave the game early again, and the banged-up Panthers secondary had to finish with rookie Troy Pride and Corn Elder at cornerback spots.
Falcons: Host the Broncos on Nov. 8
Panthers: Open the second half of the season at the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs on Nov. 8.
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Steve Reed, The Associated Press