Foreman leads Panthers past rival Falcons in rain, 25-15

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina – D’Onta Foreman admitted he was tired – sometimes completely gassed.

But the Carolina Panthers running back said there was no way he was banging on his helmet and asking to take a break. He’s waited too long in his injury-plagued career for this opportunity.

“When the game is in play, there is no exit,” Foreman said.

Foreman carried 31 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, Laviska Shenault added a 41-yard burst in the end zone, and the Panthers beat the Atlanta Falcons 25-15 on a rainy Thursday night.

Foreman’s 31 carries were the most by a Carolina running back since Nick Goings’ 36 in 2004. The Panthers (3-7) rushed for a season-high 232 yards, and Eddy Pineiro scored four field goals after missing two critical goals. kicks off a 37-34 overtime loss to the Falcons 11 days earlier.

“You gotta keep grinding, keep pounding,” said Foreman, who has three 100-yard games since being traded to San Francisco. “That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted the ball in my hands.”

Falcons’ Marcus Mariota went 19 of 30 for 186 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked five times and intercepted once.

Atlanta fell to 4-6, leaving Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) alone atop the NFC South. The Bucs play the Seattle Seahawks in Germany on Sunday.

Carolina has improved to 2-3 since coach Matt Rhule was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Steve Wilks. Four days earlier, the Panthers were eliminated 42-21 in Cincinnati after falling 35-0 at halftime.

“I’m extremely proud of the men in this locker room and how we’ve bounced back,” Wilks said.

Foreman, who rushed for 118 yards and three touchdowns when they last met Oct. 30 in Atlanta, capped a crucial seven-play, 84-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown on right tackle to give Carolina a 19-9 lead with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons cut Carolina’s lead to 22-15 when Mariota found a KhaDarel Hodge wide open for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the game after the Panthers botched a coverage mission. Younghoe Koo, who had made 71 consecutive extra points, missed his second PAT of the game to keep the margin at seven points.

The Falcons got one last shot to tie the game, taking over at their own 34 with 2 1/2 minutes left. But Carolina’s Marquis Haynes sacked Mariota twice and the Falcons turned the ball over in their 15th.

“It starts with me,” Mariota said. “I have to do a better job of getting us to better plays. When you don’t consistently make good first and second down plays, it’s tough on third downs. And then when you don’t convert third downs, you don’t maintain workouts and you don’t score points.

Carolina’s defense, which allowed Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon to rush for 153 yards and four touchdowns — and the Bengals to rush for 241 yards as a team — on Sunday, maintained the league’s fourth-best rushing offense at 138 yards.

Atlanta came in with an average of 162.9 rushing yards.

“It wasn’t pretty. They won both lines of scrimmage,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said.

The Panthers often stacked the box and sold against the run, challenging Mariota to beat them.

Shenault gave Carolina a 10-0 second quarter lead when he caught a swing pass from PJ Walker after circling the moving backfield and ran along the left sideline last five Falcons defensemen — two of whom collided and retired from play. The touchdown was ruled rushed because Walker’s throw was not a forward pass.

PINIERO’S REVENGE

Pineiro, who missed an extra point winner at the end of regulation and an overtime field goal in the previous meeting with the Falcons, had field goals for 46, 49, 40 and 37 yards for Carolina on a field wet. He missed an extra point.

“I think Eddy did a great job in practice to bounce back,” Wilks said. “We created different (game) scenarios for him in those situations. That says a lot about him as a person. You need to hit that reset button and understand that it happens sometimes. The way he came back tonight, I’m so proud of him.

INJURIES

Panthers: CB Donte Jackson injured his Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter and did not return. … FB Gio Ricci injured his neck in the second half and didn’t come back either.

NEXT

Falcons: host Chicago on Nov. 20.

Panthers: in Baltimore on November 20.

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