The Atlanta Falcons have seen many games slip away in the late stages this season. But Thursday night against the Carolina Panthers, the Falcons managed to seal the deal.
Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgwater inside the final minute as Atlanta held on for a 25-17 victory.
Younghoe Koo converted four field goals and Matt Ryan and Todd Gurley each rushed for touchdowns as the Falcons earned their second win of the season. Wreh-Wilson’s interception combined with a pair of fourth down stops defensively for Atlanta also contributed to the victory.
The game could have been much more heavily weighted toward the Falcons if their red zone offense had been more effective. The Falcons constantly managed to drive inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line but weren’t effective once they got there. Atlanta settled for three field goal attempts and a lone touchdown on four trips inside the Panthers’ 20-yard line in the first half.
Koo converted field goals from 20, 37 and 36 yards with Matt Ryan scoring on a 13-yard scramble as the Falcons built a 16-14 lead at halftime.
Ryan completed 21 of 30 passes for 281 yards with an interception and his rushing touchdown for Atlanta. Julio Jones caught seven of those passes for 137 yards.
Meanwhile, Curtis Samuel scored on a 12-yard run and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater for the Panthers before the break.
Carolina had two straight drives split between the second and third quarters that resulted in failed fourth downs. Bridgewater was tracked down by Foye Oluokun on a fourth-and-1 carry and Mike Davis was stopped on a fourth-and-1 run to thwart potential scoring chances for the Panthers.
Koo added his fourth field goal, a 29-yard kick, in the third quarter to increase Atlanta’s lead to 19-14 before Joey Slye‘s 39-yard conversion closed the gap again for the Panthers.
Davis had 66 yards on 13 carries for Carolina.
Gurley scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 11:01 left to play that could have made it a two-score game. However, Younghoe Koo missed the ensuing extra point to keep the deficit at eight, 25-17, and the game within reach.
Gurley would then make a mental error for a second straight week as he ran out of bounds to stop the clock on a third-and-14 run that allowed the Panthers to get the ball back without the clock running down any further. It gave the Panthers the ball back with 2:58 remaining.
A 42-yard strike from Bridgewater to Moore on third-and-18 moved the Panthers inside Atlanta territory with less than two minutes to play. However, Bridgewater was then picked off by Wreh-Wilson with a minute remaining to end the Panthers chances.
Bridgewater was briefly knocked from the game after taking an illegal hit from defensive end Charles Harris in the third quarter. He was cleared of a concussion and missed several plays due to a neck injury before returning to the game. P.J. Walker took the snaps in place of Bridgewater for Carolina. Harris was ejected from the game for the shot to Bridgewater’s head.
Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards with a touchdown pass and an interception.