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Players appreciated the soaked solidarity: "Thank you for those loyal fans"

Fans in the stands

CHARLOTTE — All the Panthers players who talked about Sunday's win over the Falcons talked about how much fun it was. 

But they at least got to play in the rain.

Several of them talked in the aftermath of the rain-soaked 9-7 victory that the real heroes of the day were the fans who came out in a steady downpour, in conditions that made it reasonable to stay home, to be there and be part of it all.

To watch a team win its second game of the season a week before Christmas Eve.

"You know, obviously it's been a tough season; the fans that came out here with us and survived the elements with us, huge shout out to them," left tackle Ikem Ekwonu said. "Definitely appreciate it. I can feel the energy of the whole game. So definitely, definitely great to have fans like that."

Ekwonu has been to games like this before; he's sat out in the stands at Bank of America Stadium in his rain gear when he was a kid.

But when he talked about having fun Sunday, he meant leaning into people for 129 rushing yards. He meant not getting into fights when the Falcons were trying to pick one late. He meant keeping quarterback Bryce Young upright during a game-winning drive. He meant watching Eddy Piñeiro's game-winning field goal fly through as time expired.

And make no mistake, the support they felt from the poncho-clad supporters, however many there were, was something they felt at field level.

"I always enjoy playing the rain games," center Bradley Bozeman said. "I always find it a new challenge."

But Bozeman also has a family, and he tried to tell them to stay home. It was 46 degrees at kickoff, and it didn't get much warmer as the day went. Also, it started raining before they arrived; it never stopped, and the winds picked up as the day went. 

In short, it was miserable. 

The kind of thing you can't make people show up for, a day when you can only count on volunteers.

"I mean, these are tough conditions," Bozeman said. "I told my family to stay home, but they decided to come out anyway. But they always support me and always have my back.

"These fans. man. We just appreciate them being out and being here to support us no matter our record, no matter what's going on. So you know, just thank you for those loyal fans. We appreciate it."

Panthers fans braved the elements on a rain-soaked afternoon at Bank of America Stadium to watch their team defeat the Atlanta Falcons.

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