Nov 27, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) is sacked by Washington Commanders defensive end Montez Sweat (90) and Commanders defensive end James Smith-Williams (96) during the fourth quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

After letting victory slip away, Falcons hungry to play Steelers

There’s no sugarcoating what happened last week.

The Atlanta Falcons let one get away that they could have won, and it might come back to haunt them big-time come season’s end.

Down 19-13 in the last minute at Washington, Atlanta worked its way inside the 5-yard line with a chance to pull out a win that would have put it in first place in the NFC South. But Marcus Mariota tossed a tipped-ball interception that sealed a gutting loss.

And now the Falcons have to pick up the pieces, starting Sunday at home against a Pittsburgh Steelers team perfectly willing to play the spoiler’s role.

At 5-7, Atlanta is a half-game behind Tampa Bay in the division. But the Falcons have missed a spate of chances to establish control of a weak division. Five of their seven defeats have come by a total of 20 points.

Put two or three of those in the win column and they are looking at a home game in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, Atlanta is looking to make up ground in the division while playing the season’s remainder short-handed.

The team disclosed on Wednesday that tight end Kyle Pitts, who despite a disappointing sophomore year remains one of its top players, will undergo season-ending knee surgery. Pitts caught just 28 passes this year and received barely half as many targets as he had in a 68-reception 2021.

“Nothing that concerns us going into 2023,” second-year Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We were a much different team and in a much different place where you saw a lot of growth in a lot of other jobs that we’ve asked him to do.”

Also, Atlanta held out running back Cordarrelle Patterson from Wednesday’s practice, although the team said it was only for rest purposes. It’s likely Patterson and Tyler Allgeier, who have combined for 1,058 yards, will be the focus of its game plan.

As for Pittsburgh (4-7), its playoff hopes are remote at best in the stacked AFC. But the Steelers signaled in Monday night’s 24-17 win at Indianapolis that they don’t plan to roll over for the rest of the season.

Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett was solid in his third straight game without an interception, hitting on 20 of 28 attempts for 174 yards. A variety of running backs helped pound out 172 yards on the ground, enabling Pittsburgh to own possession for more than 34 minutes.

And a decent chunk of that came with starter Najee Harris on the shelf after suffering an abdominal injury that forced him to miss the second half. Harris missed practice on Wednesday and his status for this week’s game might be a game-time decision.

Benny Snell helped pick up slack for Harris with 62 yards on his first 12 carries of the year, including the go-ahead 2-yard touchdown run with 9:55 left in the game.

“He has an edge, he runs angry,” Pickett said of Snell. “I love the juice he brings. He’s a detailed guy who does his job very well.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) carries the ball against the Washington Commanders during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith pleased Falcons are ‘building’ on O-line, run game

Mistakes in the red zone have proved costly in a number of the Atlanta Falcons’ tightly contested games this season.

In the Falcons’ 19-13 loss to the Washington Commanders on Sunday, a Marcus Mariota pass intended for Cordarrelle Patterson was tipped by Daron Payne and intercepted by Kendall Fuller in the end zone for a touchback with a little over a minute left to play.

But one positive that Arthur Smith’s team can take from the loss was its ability to run the football effectively against one of the best defensive fronts in the NFL.

Behind tailbacks Tyler Allgeier and Patterson, along with Mariota, the Falcons ran the ball 29 times for 167 yards for an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Entering this week’s home matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta (5-7) ranks fourth in the league in rushing (160.0 yards per game).

“We feel like we’re building something here up front in our mentality with our offensive line,” Smith said. “There aren’t moral victories, but it does give you confidence week after week that these guys have stepped up. And we’ve played some good fronts.

“It is the NFL, and everybody is good, I got that. But we’ve played some of the better ones. Played (the 49ers), and I know they didn’t have Bosa, but that’s a damn good front. And then yesterday, they are playing as well as anybody in the league. Low-possession game, I thought we moved the ball really well. Thought we had some good pockets.”

Despite a revolving door at left guard due to a knee injury to starter Elijah Wilkinson, the play of Atlanta’s offensive line has been strong. Right guard Chris Lindstrom and left tackle Jake Matthews are playing at a Pro Bowl level. Center Drew Dalman and right tackle Kaleb McGary have been solid, especially when run blocking.

This week, Atlanta faces another challenge when it meets a Pittsburgh team that ranks sixth in the league in run defense (103.4 yards per game). The Steelers (3-7) rank 31st in the league in pass defense, however, so Mariota could be poised for a big day through the air.

But don’t expect Smith and the Falcons to go against what’s worked best for them all season long. Patterson and Allgeier have formed a dynamic one-two punch, and Caleb Huntley has been solid despite just one carry for 12 yards against the Commanders.

“It was a function of the game, yeah, and he had one good run,” Smith said about Huntley’s lone carry. “That’s a good problem to have because Tyler is playing really well, and we know the impact CP has on the game. We got to make sure he gets it more because he’s earned the right to carry the football for us.”

–Outside linebacker Arnold Ebiketie left in the second quarter in the loss to Washington with a wrist injury. Smith is hoping Ebiketie will be able to return Wednesday.

“Obviously, AK, hopefully he’ll be alright,” Smith said. “He’s dealing with a wrist injury. We’ll see how it responds on Wednesday. But day-to-day on all those guys.”

Smith also said Wilkinson “has a shot” to be activated from IR if “he’s ready to practice Wednesday.”

–Atlanta wideout Olamide Zaccheaus had season highs in receptions (five) and yards (91) in the loss to Washington. His 45-yard reception on the team’s final possession got the Falcons into Washington territory with just more than three minutes to play.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) has his face mask grabbed by Washington Commanders cornerback Christian Holmes (34) while running with the ball during the first quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Defense, run game power Commanders past Falcons

Kendall Fuller intercepted a batted pass in the end zone with 1:03 left to preserve Washington’s 19-13 victory over the Atlanta Falcons and continue the Commanders’ playoff drive Sunday in Landover, Md.

With Atlanta threatening to take the lead at the Washington 4-yard line, Daron Payne batted a pass by Marcus Mariota at the line of scrimmage and Fuller came down with the fluttering ball just inside the goal line.

In a close-to-the-vest game played in a steady rain, Taylor Heinicke threw two touchdown passes and Brian Robinson Jr. ran for a career-high 105 yards on 18 carries as Washington (7-5) won for the sixth time in its last seven games.

The Commanders relied on their defense and a conservative game plan that included 37 rushes and 23 passes. The defense rose in the second half, limiting Atlanta to three points. Midway through the fourth quarter Montez Sweat wrecked another Atlanta possession with a sack.

Atlanta (5-7) was led by Mariota, who completed 15 of 25 passes for 174 yards and a touchdown. He also ran six times for 49 yards.

Tyler Allgeier carried 11 times for 54 yards and Cordarrelle Patterson added 11 rushes for 52 yards as the Falcons averaged 5.8 yards per attempt.

Mariota triggered the potential game-winning drive when he ducked under pressure from Payne and threw to open receiver Olamide Zaccheaus on a 45-yard play to the Washington 25.

After Fuller’s interception, the Atlanta defense forced an apparent three-and-out. But Adetokunbo Ogundeji was flagged for running into punter Tress Way, ending Atlanta’s hopes.

In the first half, both teams had a field goal and a touchdown for a 10-10 deadlock at the break.

Washington’s touchdown came when Heinicke threw a short pass to Robinson, who powered through tacklers and avoided the sideline on a 14-yard play to give the Commanders a 7-3 lead.

The Falcons regained the edge in the second quarter with a 77-yard march finished off by a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to MyCole Pruitt.

In the third quarter, Washington took the lead with a 60-yard drive that was all on the ground until Heinecke used a play-action fake and found John Bates alone in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown pass.

After Joey Slye missed the extra point, Atlanta cut the deficit in half, 16-13, with a 48-yard field goal from Younghoe Koo.

Washington answered with 9:05 left as Slye made a 45-yard field goal for a 19-13 lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Tyler Allgeier (25) runs with the ball against the Chicago Bears at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Falcons, Commanders surprisingly battle for potential playoff position

While the Washington Commanders compete in the winningest division in the NFL, the Atlanta Falcons play in the weakest division.

When the teams meet Sunday in Landover, Md., however, they enter in similar circumstances. While Washington (6-5) is a half game out of a wildcard slot in the NFC, Atlanta (5-6) is a half-game behind first-place Tampa Bay in the NFC South.

Both teams are anxious for success. Atlanta is coming off four straight losing seasons. Washington is on a run of five consecutive losing years.

“It’s a big game for both teams,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “When you get into the holiday season you want to be in games that matter.”

The Commanders are on a high having won five of their last six. Four of the wins have been with Taylor Heinicke at quarterback, though the real catalyst for the success has been Washington’s defense.

Linemen Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Montez Sweat — all first-round picks — are each producing at a Pro Bowl level, combining for 19 sacks.

And this week, the Commanders activated defensive end Chase Young, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 draft, from the physically unable to perform list.

Young, who missed 19 games after sustaining a torn ACL just over a year ago, isn’t certain to play on Sunday. Coach Ron Rivera said Young will be evaluated this week at practice to determine his availability.

“We have to slowly integrate him into it, get him more acclimated to it and when he’s ready to roll, give him an opportunity to gradually increase that number of plays,” Rivera said.

In a 23-10 win last Sunday, Washington dominated host Houston in the first half, getting an early pick-6 from Kendall Fuller and holding the Texans to 5 yards.

On Wednesday, the Commanders designated quarterback Carson Wentz for a return to practice, though he will not be activated this week. Wentz suffered a broken finger in a Week 6 win over Chicago and underwent surgery on Oct. 17.

The Falcons are coming off a 27-24 win at home over the Bears. Atlanta was down 17-7 in the second quarter before Cordarrelle Patterson sparked the rally with a 103-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Marcus Mariota ran for a touchdown and threw for another score as the Falcons won by a margin of four or fewer points for the fourth time this year.

The metrics don’t favor Atlanta. While its defense ranks 30th in the NFL, giving up 389.4 yards per game, the offense ranks No. 26, gaining an average of 313.8 yards.

The Falcons do well in the running game, as they rank No. 3, averaging 159.4 yards per game on the ground using a committee approach with Tyler Allgeier (498 yards, 4.5 per carry), Patterson (454 yards, 5.3 per carry) and Caleb Huntley (335 yards, 4.8 per carry).

The injury news was not good for Atlanta on Wednesday. Tight end Kyle Pitts and defensive tackle Ta’Quon Graham, both with knee injuries, will need surgery and will miss at least four games each.

For Washington, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday and linebacker Cole Holcomb (foot), who has been out for a month, remained sidelined.

Wahington rallied at Atlanta in Week 4 last year as Heinicke threw two touchdown passes in the final four minutes of a 34-30 victory.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith calls a time out in the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paycor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith: Falcons will miss Kyle Pitts’ ‘enormous’ impact after IR move

After Sunday’s thrilling 27-24 win over the Chicago Bears, the Atlanta Falcons are surprisingly just a half-game out of first place in the NFC South and in position to make a run at winning the division.

But any optimism surrounding the Falcons (5-6) in Arthur Smith’s second season as coach was overshadowed Monday by knee injuries to tight end Kyle Pitts and defensive end Ta’Quon Graham, who were placed on injured reserve.

Pitts, who plays a valuable role in Atlanta’s offense with his unique skill set as a receiver and blocker, injured his right knee Sunday. Though the Falcons have not confirmed the severity of the injury, NFL Network reported that the team believes he suffered a torn MCL.

“I did not go to medical school so I listen to the experts,” Smith said Monday, before Pitts’ move to IR. “Obviously it’s important with a player of Kyle’s caliber, and I understand why it’s newsworthy and people want to know, but I, not trying to be evasive, let the guys who are medical experts handle it.”

Graham, the team’s starting left end, also suffered a knee injury Sunday and had to be carted off the field. Both Pitts and Graham will have to miss at least four games before returning from IR.

The injury to Pitts put the Falcons behind the eight-ball against the Bears with fellow tight ends Feleipe Franks and Anthony Firkser inactive. MyCole Pruitt and Parker Hesse saw increased action as a result of Pitts being out. But the loss of Pitts for any period of time is a major blow to Atlanta’s offense.

Pitts has 28 receptions for 356 yards and two touchdowns over 10 games. He was a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2021, with 68 receptions for 1,026 yards and one touchdown.

“I know the stats aren’t as gaudy as his rookie season but his impact on winning has been enormous for us,” Smith said. “I know at times we haven’t been in sync with the way we’ve had to play, and you are going to sacrifice some passing numbers. But the guy’s a great teammate. He doesn’t pout like a lot of guys with that kind of hype. But he’s a real person and that’s why we love him. And the future is really bright for him.”

Graham, a stout run defender, has 34 tackles and a fumble recovery this season.

This week, Atlanta travels to take on the red-hot Washington Commanders in a critical game that could help determine a playoff spot. Washington (6-5) has won two in a row and five of its last six games.

Taylor Heinicke replaced Carson Wentz at quarterback and improved to 4-1 as the team’s starter this year following the Commanders’ 23-10 win over Houston. He also led Washington to a 32-21 upset of previously undefeated Philadelphia on Nov. 14.

The play of Heinicke, along with a resurgent rushing attack led by Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson, has been critical to Washington’s recent success.

Another key has been the play of the Commanders’ defensive line. Despite playing without star defensive end Chase Young due to a torn ACL he suffered last season, Washington has 29 sacks through 11 games, tied for 10th in the league.

Young was activated to Washington’s 53-man roster Monday and could make his season debut against Atlanta. The Falcons’ offensive line is playing well, but it will face a major challenge against a rugged Commanders front which features Daron Payne (6.5 sacks), Jonathan Allen (6.5 sacks) and Montez Sweat (6.0 sacks).

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Damiere Byrd (14) makes a catch in front of Chicago Bears safety Jaquan Brisker (9) in the second quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Cordarrelle Patterson, Falcons rally past Bears

Younghoe Koo kicked a go-ahead 53-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter and Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record with his ninth career kickoff return for a touchdown to lift the host Atlanta Falcons to a 27-24 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Patterson pieced together several key runs to set up Koo, who split the uprights to cap a 12-play drive with 1:47 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Jaylinn Hawkins intercepted Justin Fields on the ensuing drive to seal the win for the Falcons (5-6), who snapped a two-game skid.

Atlanta’s Marcus Mariota threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie Drake London early in the first quarter and rushed for a 10-yard score late in the third.

Patterson etched his name into the record books with 4:18 remaining in the second quarter. He caught the ball three yards deep in the end zone and raced up the middle en route to a 103-yard return for a touchdown that trimmed Chicago’s lead to 17-14.

Patterson shared the NFL record with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington prior to the game.

Fields threw for 153 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 85 yards and a score for the Bears (3-8), who have lost four in a row and seven of their last eight games.

Mariota, who completed 13 of 20 passes for 131 yards, scrambled and found London in the left corner of the end zone to open the scoring at 9:37 of the first quarter.

Velus Jones Jr. took the ensuing kickoff 55 yards to set up Darnell Mooney’s touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone.

Cairo Santos drilled a 41-yard field goal midway into the second quarter before Fields scampered around left end for a 4-yard score that gave the Bears a 17-7 lead. Fields’ rushing touchdown was his seventh of the season.

Montgomery bullied his way in from 2 yards out to forge a 24-24 tie with 8:16 remaining in the fourth quarter.

–Field Level Media

Nov 20, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Cordarrelle Patterson (84) runs the ball against the Chicago Bears in the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Kickoff king: Cordarrelle Patterson sets record with ninth TD return

Atlanta Falcons dynamo Cordarrelle Patterson set an NFL record on Sunday after posting his ninth career kickoff return for a touchdown.

Patterson caught the ball three yards deep in the end zone and raced up the middle en route to a 103-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter against the visiting Chicago Bears.

Patterson previously shared the NFL record with Josh Cribbs and Leon Washington.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) celebrates with  Chicago Bears tight end Trevon Wesco (88) and Chicago Bears wide receiver Byron Pringle (13) after he scores a touchdownn against the Detroit Lions during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Ground games on full display when Falcons, Bears meet

Two of the best rushing attacks in the NFL meet on Sunday in Atlanta, when the Chicago Bears run into the Falcons.

The Falcons are fourth in the league in rushing, averaging 160.4 yards per game, while the Bears average a league-high 201.7.

Atlanta (4-6) has dropped two straight to go from leading the NFC South to second place behind the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-5).

“We’re right in the middle of it,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be. But the reality is we’re right in the middle of a playoff race with a conference opponent coming in here — a game we need to win.”

The Bears (3-7) coughed up a lead and lost a 31-30 decision to the Lions last week. Chicago has dropped three straight and six of its past seven games to sink into last place in the NFC North.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota went 19-for-30 passing for 186 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but he was sacked five times, preventing the Falcons from finding their groove offensively in a 25-15 loss at Carolina on Nov. 10.

Led by Mariota’s three carries for 43 yards and Caleb Huntley’s 32 yards on five carries, the Falcons ran the ball for 138 yards on 25 touches against the Panthers.

Mariota has completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 1,747 yards with 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions, in addition to rushing for 347 yards and three scores on 63 carries. Tyler Allgeier, who has rushed for 443 yards and one touchdown, and Cordarrelle Patterson, who has 402 yards and five scores, headline the formidable rushing attack.

For the Bears, Justin Fields continued his rise as franchise quarterback in the loss to the Lions.

Despite throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown, he completed 12 of 20 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to running for 147 yards while scoring on runs of 1 and 67 yards.

Fields has rushed for 325 yards in the past two games, the most by a quarterback in NFL history, besting Lamar Jackson, who ran for 268 for the Ravens on Oct. 13 and 20 during his MVP season in 2019.

Fields may have to take on even more of the running game. Khalil Herbert (643 yards, four TDs) was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury on Tuesday. David Montgomery, who has rushed for 434 yards and two scores on 115 carries, will likely see an increased workload.

“When you’re looking at different types of places to go, you take spots for that reason,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said. “The No. 1 spot you look at is quarterback. You study and look at that and I loved what I saw.

“I’m loving what I’m seeing even more since I’ve been here for this amount of time.”

For the Falcons, cornerback A.J. Terrell (hamstring) and safety Erik Harris (foot) were limited in practice on Wednesday, while tight end Feleipe Franks (calf) didn’t participate. All three have not been ruled out for Sunday, according to Smith.

For the Bears, guard Teven Jenkins (hip), tight end Cole Kmet (thigh), defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad (knee) and cornerback Kindle Vildor (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday, while defensive backs Dane Cruikshank (hamstring) and Kyler Gordon (knee) were limited.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Marquis Haynes Sr. (98) sacks Atlanta Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota (1) in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Arthur Smith: Falcons sticking with Marcus Mariota, no ‘situation’ at QB

After losing two games in five days, Atlanta Falcons head coach Arthur Smith isn’t in panic mode.

Despite some dreary passing numbers and a combined 32 points scored over the two losses, Smith was adamant that Marcus Mariota is the team’s starting quarterback.

“There is no situation,” Smith said. “There never was a situation. Ever.”

In fact, the second-year coach is optimistic about where his Falcons (4-6) stand entering Sunday’s matchup with the Chicago Bears (3-7).

“We are right in the middle of it,” Smith said Monday. “We’re not where we want to be. But the reality is we are right in the middle of a playoff race with a conference opponent coming in here in a game we need to win.”

Atlanta owns the NFL’s fourth-best rushing attack (160.4 yards per game) but ranks 30th in the league in passing yards per game (156.8 ypg). Only the Tennessee Titans (148.2 ypg) and Bears (128.1 ypg) have been worse.

For the season, Mariota has completed 143 of 231 passes for 1,747 yards, 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He’s the team’s third-leading rusher (347 yards, three touchdowns) and has done what Smith has asked of him within the framework of a run-oriented offense that relies heavily on play-action passing.

But a big factor in the Falcons’ losses this season has been the results of negative plays and turnovers. And Mariota isn’t the lone man to blame, according to his coach.

“We need to avoid negative plays,” Smith said. “I don’t think an offense is going to be very effective if you’re off track. We’ve been pretty damn good when we’ve been on track. We just haven’t been as consistent lately. Those are things we can eliminate. And that’s not just on the quarterback.”

Atlanta drafted dual-threat quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round in April’s draft, but Smith shut down any rumors about a potential quarterback change.

“We’re playing the guys who have been playing,” Smith said. “If we were going to make a change, I’d tell you. You’d see it at practice.”

Atlanta and Chicago have been two of the league’s top teams running the ball, and Smith knows his defense faces a challenge trying to contain a three-headed rushing attack which features dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields (749 yards, seven touchdowns) and tailbacks Khalil Herbert (643 yards, four touchdowns) and David Montgomery (434 yards, two scores).

“I think what the Bears have done is they’ve found an identity,” Smith said. “They have a formula right now. You see what their numbers are running the football as well as anybody, and (Fields) is a huge part of that.”

–Chicago enters its game with Atlanta ranked first in the NFL in rushing (201.7 ypg). A big reason for that has been Fields, who passed for 167 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 147 yards and two scores in last week’s 31-30 loss to Detroit.

Fields has been one of the most dynamic players in the league over the last few weeks.

“You can definitely see his confidence growing,” Smith said “He’s strong as hell. He’s certainly probably the strongest guy they got in the backfield so he’s doing a nice job. We are going to have to stop the run, not just him.”

–Atlanta rookie wideout Drake London caught his third touchdown pass of the season in last week’s 25-15 loss to Carolina. It was his first touchdown reception since Week 3’s 27-23 road win over Seattle.

–Field Level Media

Nov 10, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA;  Carolina Panthers wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. (15) with the ball as Atlanta Falcons cornerback Rashad Fenton (21) defends in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

D’Onta Foreman, Panthers run all over Falcons

D’Onta Foreman ran for 130 yards and a touchdown and the Carolina Panthers avenged a loss sustained 11 days earlier by defeating the Atlanta Falcons 25-15 on a rainy Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.

Panthers quarterback PJ Walker threw for 108 yards on 10-for-16 passing in a game that was close but didn’t quite have the drama of Atlanta’s overtime victory in the first matchup between the NFC South teams on Oct. 30.

Eddy Pineiro, who missed two potential winning kicks in the game at Atlanta, booted four field goals for the Panthers (3-7). Foreman had 31 carries to spearhead a Carolina ground game that produced 232 yards on a whopping 47 carries.

Marcus Mariota threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a team-best 43 yards for the Falcons (4-6), who’ve lost two games in a row. He was 19-for-30 for 186 yards in the air with an interception.

Trailing 22-15, Atlanta got the ball back with 2:33 to play, but two sacks on the ensuing possession doomed the Falcons. The Panthers recorded five sacks.

The Panthers built a 13-0 lead over the game’s first 28-plus minutes with Pineiro making field goals of 46 and 49 yards on either side of a Laviska Shenault Jr. 41-yard scoring run.

Atlanta didn’t score until Younghoe Koo’s 33-yard field goal on the last play of the first half.

Still, it was a big contrast from the last game for Carolina, which trailed 35-0 at the break Sunday at Cincinnati in an eventual 42-21 loss.

The Falcons perked up in the third quarter, with Mariota’s 7-yard pass to Drake London giving them their first touchdown and drawing them within four. Koo missed the extra-point kick.

Foreman’s 12-yard touchdown run with 1:51 left in the third quarter also was followed by a missed extra-point kick.

Pineiro made amends with a 40-yard field goal for a 22-9 lead with 9:22 left in the game.

Mariota threw 25 yards to KhaDarel Hodge for a touchdown with 2:56 to play, but Koo’s extra-point try was blocked.

The only scoring from that point was Pineiro’s insurance 37-yard field goal for the game’s final margin with 10 seconds to play.

–Field Level Media