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Rapid Reactions: Panthers run past Falcons, 19-13

Shaq Thompson

ATLANTA — The Panthers went down the checklist of items they needed to win, and they accomplished all of them.

They ran.

They took care of the ball.

They converted third downs.

They created turnovers.

And for the second time in as many seasons they won in Atlanta.

The Panthers broke a four-game losing streak with a 19-13 win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They were 7-19 all-time in Atlanta prior to Sunday but have won both trips in the Matt Rhule era.

They did it with the kind of back-to-basics game they promised a week ago, running the ball 46 times, and with Sam Darnold throwing just 24 passes before leaving with a concussion.

The Panthers combined for 203 rushing yards, their most since Week 5 of 2019, and converted 10-of-17 third downs (they were 4-of-27 in that category the last two weeks combined). And other than Chuba Hubbard's fumble on the first play of the game, they held onto it and didn't make the kind of big mistakes which had doomed them previously.

New cornerback Stephon Gilmore sealed it with an interception with 1:52 left, making quite a debut in his first game for his hometown team. That pass was intended for Atlanta rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, who had 16 receptions for 282 yards his previous two games. He was held to two catches for 13 yards on six targets Sunday.

— Darnold left the game in the fourth quarter, after taking a hard shot near the goal line.

He went to the medical tent, and then walked to the locker room without his helmet, before he was ruled out for the day with a concussion.

Darnold bounced back from being benched in New York with an efficient day, completing 13-of-24 passes for 129 yards, and rushing eight times for 66 yards.

The Panthers were also 10-of-15 converting third downs when he left the game.

— Backup quarterback P.J. Walker came in and nearly threw an interception, but after it was batted around by a collection of Falcons, the Panthers survived. He was nearly sacked on the play, and rolled out of trouble to throw it back into trouble before the ball landed harmlessly on the ground.

Chuba Hubbard's 6-yard touchdown run on the next play gave the Panthers a 19-10 lead.

— Kicker Zane Gonzalez had a huge day, with four field goals.

His 57-yard field goal just before halftime was a career high and was the second-longest field goal in franchise history.

He also hit a 51-yarder, showing the kind of range the Panthers weren't sure they were going to get from Gonzalez. He's also been a steady supplier of touchbacks since his first game.

— Robby Anderson left the game briefly in the third quarter after taking a hard shot from Falcons safety Erik Harris.

There was a brief scuffle moments after the play, after some Panthers players, led by safety Sam Franklin Jr. appeared to object to the hit.

It was the only time Anderson was targeted during the game, but he did fall on the Falcons' late onside kick attempt.

View photos from Atlanta as the Panthers take on the Falcons in Week 8.

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