It’s hard to remember a Panthers game quite like Sunday’s contest against the Falcons, particularly with the NFC South lead on the line. The teams combined for thirteen total scores, with the teams alternating putting up points through the first ten scores of the game. The Panthers were up 10-7 late in the first half and were looking to extend their lead before the break when Lorenzo Carter intercepted a PJ Washington screen pass and took it to the house for a 14-10 Atlanta halftime lead.
In the second half, the teams would combine for 47 points, with the Panthers trailing almost the entire half. With three minutes left in the contest, Panthers running back D’Onta Foreman would punch in a touchdown from 12 yards out, good for his 3rd TD of the game, to go along with his 118 rushing yards. The Panthers late lead would be short-lived, however, as former Panthers wide receiver, Damiere Byrd, caught a pass from Marcus Mariota and speed past the Panthers defense for a 47-yard touchdown with just over two minutes remaining.
The Panthers would flame out on their next possession and Atlanta would quickly add a field goal to extend their lead to 34-28 with just over thirty seconds remaining in the game. PJ Walker would connect on a quick strike to Terrace Marshall Jr to get the ball to the Panthers 38-yard line, setting up what should have been one of the best plays in Panthers history, a 62-yard Hail Mary with PJ Walker rolling left and heaving the ball deep to DJ Moore for a game-tying touchdown.
The Panthers were all but assured of the victory, but in his celebration, DJ Moore ripped off his helmet, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that was enforced on the extra point, meaning the game-winning extra point was now a 48-yard attempt. Panthers Kicker Eddie Pinero was, for once this season, not Dinero. The miss kept the game tied at 34 and the teams would go to overtime.
The first big play of overtime came with just under eight minutes remaining, as a pass intended for Damiere Byrd was instead snatched by CJ Henderson, who returned the interception 54 yards to the Atlanta 20-yard line, setting up the Panthers for another opportunity to steal away the victory, but once again Eddie Pinero would miss the kick, preserving the score at 34-34.
On the ensuing drive, the Panthers defense would force a 3rd down, but Falcons QB Marcus Mariota would evade tacklers in the backfield and take off for a 30 yard run to set up their kicker for the game-winning field goal, which he promptly drilled, securing the 37-34 victory for the Falcons, as well as first place in the division.
The Panthers play again this Sunday in Cincinnati against the Bengals, who last year represented the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Bengals currently sit at 4-3 with a game tonight against the Browns. The Panthers, meanwhile, are now 2-6 and in last place in the NFC South.