This was a very tough game to watch. My wife and I were cringing the entire game. While screaming and cheering at the screen, it seems that Carolina never really showed up to play football. Which was unfortunate for us, because we wanted to watch a football game.
The first quarter was all Atlanta, with a 23-yard field goal from Jason Elam as well as a seven-yard rushing touchdown from Harry Douglas. This put Atlanta up 10-0.
FUN FACT: The Falcons have outscored opponents 88-24 in the first quarter in 11 games in 2008. They were outscored 105-71 in the first quarter of 16 games in 2007.
FUN FACT: Atlanta kicker Jason Elam has scored at least one point in 246 straight games, the second-longest streak in NFL history.
The Falcon's Michael Turner romps in for an easy one-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. Carolina moved into field goal rang for the first time and capitalized with a 23-yard field goal from John Kasay. Carolina was on the board 3-17 before the half.
Carolina woke up long enough to score 10 unanswered points in the third quarter with a DeAngelo Williams five-yard run and a 21-yard John Kasay field goal to being the Panthers within 4 points, 13-17.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth brawl until the final minutes. Atlanta quickly scored with a four-yard Michael Turner rush. Jake Delhomme showed off his wheels as be barrels in for a 12-yard run with a DeAngelo Williams rush for a two-point conversion. Carolina gets within three, 21-24.
The Falcons answered back with a Michael Turner 1-yard rush then added with a Harry Douglas 61-yard punt return. It was little too late as Muhsin Muhammad caught a 16-yard touchdown pass From Jake Delhomme. Michael Turner's 16-yard rushing touchdown sealed the deal at the Georgia Dome, winning 28-45.
NFC SOUTH FACT: The Falcons hold a 17-11 advantage in the all-time series against the Panthers, but Carolina has won five of the last eight.
Jake Delhomme went 21-of-35 for a total of 295 yards. Steve Smith had eight passes for 168 yards. DeAngelo Williams rushed for 101 yards on 19 carries. Penalties killed the Panthers as they had eight for 48 yards. It's hard to win if you give up free yardage.
Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme commented on the loss, “We need to start faster. We need to have that edge, that sense of urgency when we come out. For some reason the last couple of weeks it was slow. And we need to get it because it doesn’t get any easier from here on out.
It’s disappointing. We gave ourselves some manageable situations and we didn’t convert. You are down 17-0 before you wake up and start playing some football. We dug ourselves such a hole. It's frustrating. We should start better."
Panthers coach John Fox said, "They had a lot of personnel groupings and did a good job hiding their substitutions. It caused us to be a little bit behind on defense."
Carolina defensive tackle Damione Lewis responded, “I know I’m angry, and I think everyone on defense is. We all try to make the adjustments and try our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
"The defense feels like we let the team down. We fought back and gave ourselves an opportunity to come back and have a chance to take the lead and we didn’t. It’s hard on us. A great defense won’t allow a team to score points like that and we gave up the most points today we’ve given up all season.”
“We can’t continue to spot a team 10 or 17 points every time and expect to come back and win. Not against a team like that,” said cornerback Ken Lucas.
This was a must-win for Carolina. Unfortunately, the loss dropped the Panthers to 8-3, tied for first place in the NFC South with Tampa Bay. The Bucs hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, so if the season ended today, the Bucs would win the division and the Panthers would be a wild card team for the playoffs.
Carolina cannot afford to keep suffering losses like this if they want to live and see the playoffs.