What We Saw: Falcons at Panthers

Let's just call this "The D’Onta Foreman Game" and move swiftly on!

Falcons @ Panthers

Final Score: Panthers 25, Falcons 15

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

A miserable, wet night in Charlotte was matched by an equally miserable game of football. In a wide-open NFC South battle, the Atlanta Falcons were looking to go atop the division with a victory over the hapless Carolina Panthers, who were reeling from a heavy defeat by the Bengals in Week 9. It was a scrappy, unimpressive game to watch with lots of poor quality in the trenches, limited play at quarterback and a dearth of skill-position player opportunities to make an impact.

The first half was a dour affair as both teams struggled to move the ball in less-than-ideal conditions – the longest drive was a tedious 15-play, 56 yard drive that ended with the Panthers punting from the Falcons 35-yard line. Grim! The only highlight-worthy moment came from the unlikeliest of sources, former Jaguars gadget-man Laviska Shenault Jr. breaking off a run into the end zone after the Falcons defense fell over themselves. It was so close to being a passing score for PJ Walker. Not quite!

 

It was a dreadful half for Marcus Mariota in particular, who launched four turnover-worthy throws up for grabs, luckily only one was picked off. Jaycee Horn making a play in the secondary off a bad throw. The Panthers could only turn it into a field goal but went into the half with a 13-3 lead.

 

Everyone was hoping for something so much better in the second half but it never arrived. The Panthers committed a number of costly penalties which pinned them into their own half but the Falcons could only chip their away into the red zone with stuttering drives that relied on a mix of defensive penalties to keep them alive. They finally managed to drag themselves back into the game with a rare Drake London touchdown grab.

It was short lived, however, as the Panthers marched right back down the field with a 7-play, 84-yard drive that D’Onta Foreman finished by ploughing into the end zone with a tough run.

 

Despite a late Falcons touchdown to make things close, Carolina held on thanks to two fourth down stops and some big sacks from their defensive line. The Panthers have regained some integrity under Steve Wilks and notched their third win of the season to ensure the NFC South remains without a winning record. Ugly stuff all around.

 

Atlanta Falcons

 

Quarterback

 

Marcus Mariota: 19/30, 186 Yards, 2 TD, INT, 5 Sacks | 3 Carries, 43 Yards

 

It really was a night to forget for Marcus Mariota for much of this game. His inability to connect with his his receivers at every level meant Head Coach Arthur Smith cut a frustrated figure on the sideline. His costly turnover in the first half proving to be a big difference in the game. It felt like Mariota had been pre-programmed to throw the ball downfield for this game, forcing balls into coverage and running the risk especially with the wet conditions.

A crucial first drive in the second half showed the best and the worst of Mariota. First, he missed a wide open Kyle Pitts for a huge gain. He simply has to make those throws.

 

But he redeemed himself by taking a risk in exactly the right spot – with time in the pocket, Mariota progressed through his reads nicely before deciding to go after the plus matchup with Drake London‘s height and ability in contested situations. A good throw.

 

Mariota took sack-after-sack in the fourth quarter as his offensive line couldn’t deal with the Panthers defensive front. Mariota held onto the ball too long too so it was a catalogue of errors that impeded the offense throughout the night. Mariota will likely drop off streaming relevance after his third disappointing fantasy output in a month.

 

Running Back

 

Caleb Huntley: 5 Carries, 32 Yards

Avery Williams: 4 Carries, 25 Yards

Tyler Allgeier: 8 Carries, 20 Yards | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, -17 Yards

Cordarrelle Patterson: 5 Carries, 18 Yards | 1 Target, 1 Reception, 2 Yards

 

The Panthers clearly had a mission to take Cordarelle Patterson out of the game by stuffing the box with run-stoppers for this one, and it worked. The Falcons had to pivot to an outside-zone run scheme and it wasn’t effective – all four running backs shared touches in a messy game plan that was more Smith looking for someone to do something rather than any kind of strategic aim.

 

To be honest the stat line is a fantasy nightmare. Using four different backs and splitting formation reps only complicates things for the quarterback and does not help find a rhythm, something Mariota can struggle with.

Playing from behind from early didn’t help matters either and despite averaging a healthy 5.4 yards per carry, they couldn’t move the chains when it mattered. Mariota scrambling around made up for 43 of the total 130 yards rushing.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Damiere Byrd: 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 58 Yards

Drake London: 6 Targets, 5 Receptions, 38 Yards, TD

KhaDarel Hodge: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 37 Yards, TD

Olamide Zaccheaus: 4 Targets, 2 Receptions, 34 Yards

Kyle Pitts: 8 Targets, 2 Receptions, 28 Yards

MyCole Pruitt: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 6 Yards

 

Finally, a Drake London touchdown for fantasy managers to smile about going into the full slate of Week 10 games. Kyle Pitts fantasy managers will not be impressed, however, after Mariota missed him on a number of throws and failed to capitalize on a promising matchup with a smaller Panthers secondary. Despite eight targets, Pitts caught only two balls.

London was impressive in catching five of his six targets but for a measly 38 yards and a fantasy-salvaging touchdown grab. He was targeted mainly on throws underneath and had little chance to stretch the field, a missed opportunity in truth.

London sure was happy about his touchdown grab!

 

To rub further salt into the wounds of Pitts managers, the fourth quarter touchdown pass to claw the Falcons back into the game was thrown to KhaDarel Hodge, his first ever score in the NFL in his five-year career. Yep, it was that type of night for fantasy managers.

 

Carolina Panthers

 

Quarterback

 

PJ Walker: 10/16, 108 Yards | 3 Carries, 14 Yards

 

A game-manager performance for the ages from young PJ Walker who by the naked eye set a new record for the least a quarterback has ever had to do to win a football match. There is really nothing else to say. He did a good job handing the ball off 45 times! He was a non-factor in the passing game after the Panthers went up by 10 points and could ride the run game.

 

Running Back

 

D’Onta Foreman: 31 Carries, 130 Yards, TD | 1 Target

Raheem Blackshear: 6 Carries, 32 Yards

Chuba Hubbard: 5 Carries, 14 Yards

 

The Panthers won this game on the ground – D’Onta Foreman led the charge from the backfield, gaining a career-high 115 yards after contact on 31 carries. What a night for the former Texans back who has fully realised his opportunity since Christian McCaffrey was shipped off to San Francisco. The output was his third 100-yard rushing effort in the past four weeks, which has included four touchdowns too.

 

He is the new star of this backfield and an instant fan favorite. If he’s still available in your leagues snap him up now.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Terrace Marshall Jr.: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 43 Yards

DJ Moore: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 29 Yards

Laviska Shenault Jr.: 2 Carries, 42 Yards, TD | 4 Targets, 3 Receptions, 17 Yards

Shi Smith: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 17 Yards

Giovanni Ricci: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 2 Yards

Tommy Tremble: 1 Target

 

DJ Moore had a promising start to this game by picking up a big gain in the first quarter. However, as the rain fell and the Panthers stayed ahead the opportunities dried up for the elite receiver. It’s the same old story in Carolina! He also spent some time on the sidelines after being evaluated for concussion. He did come back into the game, however.

 

Terrace Marshall Jr. is steadily making a name for himself with this new regime in Carolina. The former LSU wideout was a forgotten man under Matt Rhule, however he showed once again he can be relied upon to make plays downfield and protect the football. He could be a feature down the stretch and will continue to get opportunities…if they throw the ball that is!

 

After years of hoping for Laviska Shenault Jr. it is hard to say the elusive speedster will kick on after this display. One play dies not a fantasy star make. Here’s to hoping…still!

 

Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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