Carolina’s 20-17 win over Atlanta began with the Panthers offense struggling mightily in its first game without Kelvin Benjamin.
But with Cam Newton running -- and diving -- over Falcons defenders, and Christian McCaffrey having his most effective day as pro, Carolina’s offense came to life, rushing for more than 200 yards. Meanwhile, Atlanta went into a funk, no play perhaps more telling than all-pro receiver Julio Jones dropping a wide open touchdown pass on a fourth down play in the fourth quarter.
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Falcons fans were frustrated about Jones, but just as frustrated with their 2017 Super Bowl runners-up as a whole, as the Panthers rallied from a 10-0 hole to win their second straight game and improve to 6-3.
Carolina fans rejoice a 2-game win streak
After the win, Panthers fans were excited and at least one remembered that many of the national TV talking heads Sunday didn’t think Carolina would be happy Sunday afternoon.
First half offensive struggles, until final two minutes
For most of the first half of the Panthers’ first game since trading Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina’s offense didn’t amount to much. At least until the defense got a big stop and made a big play.
Down 10-0 to Atlanta, the Falcons were driving but were stopped on a fourth down and 1. After a nice Cam Newton-to-Devin Funchess pass, and two 15-yard penalties, Carolina got into the red zone and scored on a Christian McCaffrey option run.
On the Falcons next possession, Carolina got an interception from Mike Adams and Cam Newton & Co. got the ball at the Falcons 31. The Panthers drove in and scored another touchdown, this one on Newton’s 52nd career rushing touchdown. Newton’s dunking move caught the attention of a certain 2-time NBA MVP.
So at halftime, Carolina led 14-10, despite playing the type of offensive football, at least early, that had fans ready to change the channel.
Why those kinds of tweets?
Well, the Panthers didn’t get off to a good start against arch rival Atlanta. There was a three-and-out, a punt and two fumbles from Jonathan Stewart, who had two fumbles in his first four carries. The Falcons, who haven’t exactly been their 2016 season Super Bowl selves, jumped out to that 10-0 lead.
Panthers fans jumped on their phones for the social media psychology couch.