What It Means
Football's a funny game.
Two weeks ago, there was doom and gloom in Carolina when the Panthers left Chicago with a 17-3 loss. Two divisional wins later, things are looking much brighter.
The Panthers snapped a three-game series skid against the Falcons, who are now 4-4 during their Super Bowl hangover.
Five days after dealing wideout Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina's offense wasn't great, but it took advantage of another dynamic effort by the defense. That unit, which gave up a combined 81 points in two meetings with the Falcons last seasons, allowed just 17 points Sunday.
The Panthers are now 6-3, still a half-game behind the 6-2 Saints, who routed the 2-6 Bucs. Carolina will next host Miami on Monday Night Football in Week 10 before the bye week.
–Wide receiver Kaelin Clay was slow to get up after a punt return early in the second quarter. He returned shortly after trainers attended to the rib section on his right side.
–Tight end Chris Manhertz entered the concussion protocol in the second quarter, leaving Ed Dickson as lone TE
–Safety Mike Adams injured his shoulder while making a tackle in the fourth quarter. He was replaced by Jarius Byrd.
–When the Panthers scored two touchdowns in the final 1:55 of the first half, it was the time they've ever scored multiple touchdowns in the final two minutes of a half.
–Running back Jonathan Stewart lost two fumbles in each of the past two seasons. Sunday, he lost that many in a three-carry stretch in the first quarter. Stewart wasn't pulled from the game, but it may have been a coincidence that McCaffrey saw a good amount of time in the backfield the rest of the way.
–After debuting with 47 yards on 13 carries in Week 1, McCaffrey totaled just 70 rushing yards over his past seven games. Sunday he set a new season high with 66 yards on 15 carries with his first career rushing touchdown.
–The offense was OK in its first game since trading Benjamin. That Newton led the team in rushing for a fourth straight game is concerning, though.
–Matt Ryan threw just seven interceptions during his 2016 MVP season. He's now equaled that totaled through just eight games this season. Ryan was picked off in the second quarter by Adams, who tallied his second interception in as many weeks.
–Press boxes are usually full of hushed tones. But a loud, collective "OHHH!" filled the one at Bank of America Stadium when Falcons star wideout Julio Jones dropped a should-have-been touchdown in the fourth quarter.