Falcons prevail in back-and-forth divisional battle versus Panthers

Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WNCN) — On the heels of running back Todd Gurley’s league-leading eighth rushing touchdown, the Atlanta Falcons defeated the Carolina Panthers Thursday night, 25-17.

The Panthers endured a bit of a scare late in the third quarter after quarterback Teddy Bridgewater went down with a scary-looking neck injury. He would pass the NFL’s concussion protocol and returned after a couple of series of ex-XFL’er PJ Walker behind center.

Falcons defensive end Charles Harris, who put the hit on Bridgewater was ejected from the game because of it.

This loss drops the Panthers to 3-5 on the season while the Falcons move their record to 2-6 following an abysmal start to their season. The loss is also Carolina’s third-straight.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan finished with 281 yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception and found his favorite target, wide receiver Julio Jones early and often, finding him for two 20-plus yard receptions on the team’s first drive. Jones finished the game with seven receptions for 137 yards.

Carolina’s offense got off to a great start on their opening drive, going 75 yards in just six plays capped by a 12-yard touchdown run by Curtis Samuel to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead. Atlanta would counter with a field goal on its next drive.

After both teams traded possession, another Samuel touchdown — this time as a receiving touchdown — extended the Panthers lead to 14-6.

As was the theme of this game, the Falcons hit back with a long, 75-yard drive of their own, ending in a 13-yard scamper by Ryan for a touchdown. Though not your scrambling type, the score would give Ryan his 10th career rushing touchdown. Atlanta elected for the extra point, cutting Carolina’s lead to one, 14-13.

Two field goals by Younghoe Koo would push the Falcons on top, 19-14. Panthers kicker Joey Slye knocked in a 39-yard field goal of his own to cut the lead to two.

Yet another 75-yard drive capped by the aforementioned Gurley rushing touchdown extended the Falcons’ lead to eight at 25-17.

The Panthers got the last say so late in the fourth quarter, but came up short in its efforts to tie the ball game.

Bridgewater finished the night with 176 yards and the lone touchdown pass to Samuel. He would throw an interception on the final drive.

The Panthers have a date with the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs next Sunday while the Falcons welcome in the Denver Broncos.

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