Week 17 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 44, Atlanta Falcons 11
What you need to know
Carolina entered Week 17 in need of a victory to secure a playoff berth, and the Panthers played one of their best games of the year. Carolina scored on their first six possessions, including all five possessions of the first half, and did not have to punt until late in the third quarter.
WR Steve Smith caught nine passes and surpassed 100 yards receiving for the ninth time this season, a Carolina record. He also scored his 12th touchdown and finished with 103 receptions, breaking the franchise record for most catches by a Carolina receiver.
RB DeShaun Foster ran for 165 yards in less than three quarters of work, with most of that yardage coming on a 70 yard touchdown in the first quarter. Carolina ran for a franchise record 229 yards, including two touchdowns and 13 first downs.
Carolina’s defense dominated against the number one rushing offense, holding Atlanta to just 26 yards rushing.
Atlanta led the NFL in rushing entering Week 17, but the run game seemed to go away along with the Falcons’ playoff dreams. Atlanta was held to 26 yards on the ground - the sixth-worst performance in team history and the first time all season that the Falcons failed to reach 100 yards. RB Warrick Dunn led all Falcons rushers with just 29 yards. QB Michael Vick finished with zero rushing yards – the first time he failed to gain a yard as a starting quarterback.
Vick did start the game with a strong throwing effort, completing his first eight passes. However, he was able to complete only seven more passes in his additional 16 attempts, finishing with 115 yards, one interception and no touchdowns. The only Falcons touchdown came when backup QB Matt Schaub came in for the final quarter and connected with WR Roddy White long after the game was decided.
The loss by the Falcons (8-8) extended their ignominious streak of never having two consecutive winning seasons in their 40 year franchise history.
What you ought to know
Delhomme connected with his favorite target, WR Steve Smith, for nine of his 14 completions and 131 of his 163 yards passing. He was very accurate, even more than his 70% completion rate would indicate. Two of his incomplete passes were thrown away to avoid a sack, and another was ruled a pass interference penalty for 39 yards. Delhomme played only 12 minutes in to the second half, as backup QB Chris Weinke came in to finish the game.
|QB Chris Weinke, Pass: 2 - 5 - 17 - 0 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 3 - -1 - 0|
Weinke came in to run out the clock on the Panthers’ victory. He entered the game with three minutes to go in the third quarter and only attempted five short passes.
Foster had a great game for Carolina, rushing for over 100 yards and breaking the franchise record for longest touchdown. He broke through the line from his own 30 then ran 70 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Foster continued to add to his totals after halftime, gaining over ten yards and four first downs on his only four carries in the third quarter. After his 22 yard gain on his 18th carry, HC John Fox rested his starter for the playoffs.
Robertson had ten carries in the second half as he was the primary back in place of RB DeShaun Foster once the game had been decided. Robertson gained four yards or more on four of his carries, including a long of 11 yards. However, he also had four carries for zero yards. His highlight was his one yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter.
Smart, most known for his “He Hate Me” days in the XFL, made a brief appearance in the fourth quarter, taking three carries at the end of the game. Smart continues to contribute for Carolina on special teams but was not used on kick returns in Week 17.
|RB Nick Goings, Rush: 2 - 18 - 0, Rec: 1 - 9 - 0 (1 targets)|
Goings touched the ball just three times in Week 17, with his most productive being a 17 yard rush in the second quarter. Goings added a one yard carry in the third quarter to go with his first quarter nine yard catch.
Hoover had one carry for zero yards in the second quarter and was targeted once in the third on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
|WR Steve Smith, Rush: 1 - 7 - 0, Rec: 9 - 131 - 1 (13 targets)|
Smith was nearly the entire passing offense for Carolina, catching nine of 14 passes from QB Jake Delhomme before the Panther starters left the game. Smith caught six passes for 98 yards in the second quarter, highlighted by a 42 yards touchdown catch. He also lost a six yard touchdown as it was reviewed and overturned to where he was down at the one yard line.
Smith’s nine catches gave him 103 for the season, breaking the Carolina team record for receptions in a season formerly held by WR Muhsin Muhammad. Smith’s 131 yards put him over 100 yards for the ninth time this season, also a club record. He also scored his 12th touchdown of the year.
Proehl contributed greatly to the Carolina victory, catching the first touchdown of the game. He went across the middle of a Falcons’ zone defense and caught a 12 yard touchdown in the first quarter. Proehl also added two catches in the third quarter, including a six yard catch he advanced to the Atlanta one yard line. He caught all three of his targets in Week 17.
Colbert was targeted just four times, and only two were catchable. He grabbed both of them, but they amounted to just 11 yards.
Carter was thrown towards once in the first quarter by QB Jake Delhomme on a deep route of 39 yards. The pass fell incomplete, but Carter was able to draw the pass interference call.
Gaines started for the Panthers at tight end, but was hardly involved in the passing game. He caught just one short pass for zero yards on a play where Carolina needed just one yard for a first down. He was also targeted on a deep ball about 30 yards down the middle of the field by QB Delhomme, but the pass was easily defended by two Atlanta defensive backs.
Seidman was thrown one pass in the fourth quarter of about three yards but dropped the ball.
Kasay was quite busy in Week 17, kicking five extra points and three official field goals of 19, 41 and 34 yards. Kasay also made a 31 yard kick just before his 41 yard field goal, but a penalty nullified the play. He also missed a 34 yard attempt well wide to the right before his last field goal, but the play was also blown dead before the snap.
The Panthers held the number one rushing team in the NFL to just 26 total yards rushing – their sixth worst performance in team history and the first time all season that Atlanta was held under 100 yards. QB Michael Vick gained zero yards for the first time ever as a starter.
QB Michael Vick started the game with eight completions, but the Panthers defense quickly clamped down on the Atlanta passing game. Carolina finished with five sacks, including two each by DT Kindal Moorehead and DE Al Wallace, and an interception. They did not yield a touchdown until the waning moments of the game when all the starters were on the sideline.
|QB Michael Vick, Pass: 15 - 24 - 115 - 0 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 0 - 0|
Vick started the game strong, completing his first eight passes for 57 yards, but the wheels started to come off after the first quarter. Vick stumbled his way through the rest of the game in completing just seven more passes on his final 16 attempts for a paltry 58 yards. Vick failed to throw a touchdown, but did manage to throw a ball deep and up for grabs towards WR Roddy White that was intercepted by CB Chris Gamble.
What was more telling in this game was Vick’s inability to run the ball. For the first time as a starter, Vick was held to zero yards rushing. He only had one rushing attempt in the entire game despite playing in to the fourth quarter.
Schaub came in to finish the game for QB Michael Vick, who was under constant duress from the Panthers defense. Schaub was able to move the ball against the backup team for Carolina. He completed nine passes for 110 yards and the only Atlanta touchdown of the game. He also threw for a two point conversion to WR Brian Finneran.
|RB Warrick Dunn, Rush: 7 - 29 - 0, Rec: 2 - 10 - 0 (2 targets)|
Dunn had 21 rushing yards on five carries in the opening quarter to go along with a seven yard reception, but his productivity diminished on pace with the rest of his team’s production. Dunn could only contribute 11 more yards for the rest of the game on just three more touches after the first quarter.
|RB T.J. Duckett, Rush: 6 - -4 - 0, Rec: 2 - 15 - 0 (2 targets)|
Duckett had a horrible game, finishing with a negative yardage total on six carries. The worst carry came in the fourth quarter, as Duckett gained one yard, fumbled the ball backwards for eight yards, where it was scooped up by the Panthers’ CB Ricky Manning for a Carolina touchdown.
Griffith caught four passes out of the Atlanta backfield for a total of 27 yards. His only target that he did not catch was a ball thrown away in his general direction by QB Matt Schaub in the fourth quarter.
Jenkins was the leading receiver for Atlanta, catching all five of his targets for 60 yards. However, his two longest catches of 19 yards each came in the fourth quarter in garbage time.
|WR Roddy White, Rush: 1 - 1 - 0, Rec: 4 - 47 - 1 (10 targets)|
White was the most targeted Falcon receiver, getting 10 chances to make a catch. He reeled in four balls for 47 total yards, including the only Atlanta touchdown of the game. White had ample opportunity to make a play for his team, as he dropped two passes, including one that would have been a 20 yard catch in the second quarter. He was also Vick’s favorite deep target, as he ran two routes for over 40 yards. The first was in to double coverage, and the second was a jump ball that resulted in the only interception of the game.
Finneran is still officially considered the #3 WR in Atlanta, but he was targeted eight times, second only to WR Roddy White. Finneran caught four passes for short range, ranging between seven and 14 yards on each and gaining three first downs. He also caught a two point conversion from QB Schaub after the only Falcon touchdown.
Crumpler was covered well by the Panthers for the entire game. Crumpler was only able to gain 21 yards on three catches. His longest reception of 14 yards came in the second quarter, but he fumbled on the tackle and turned the ball over to Carolina.
Peterson converted his only field goal attempt of the game from 29 yards away in the first quarter.
RB DeShaun Foster ran for the longest touchdown in Panthers history and finished with 165 yards. Carolina ran for a team record 229 yards and averaged six yards a carry. The Panthers scored twice on the ground and picked up 13 first downs rushing.
Atlanta could not stop QB Jake Delhomme from throwing to Steve Smith seemingly at will, as they connected nine times for 131 yards and a score.