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Panthers ground dominance earns Carolina hard-fought 25-15 win over Atlanta Falcons in rainy TNF showdown

<i>Lance King/Getty Images</i><br/>D'Onta Foreman (center) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Falcons on November 10.
Lance King/Getty Images
D'Onta Foreman (center) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Falcons on November 10.

By Ben Morse, CNN

The Carolina Panthers’ dominance in their running game proved enough to hold off a late Atlanta Falcons comeback attempt on a rainy Thursday Night Football.

Panthers running back D’Onta Foreman ran for 130 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown while Laviska Shenault Jr. added a 41-yard touchdown as the team ran for a season-high 232 yards as a whole, in the 25-15 win at Bank of America Stadium.

Carolina quarterback PJ Walker finished with 108 passing yards and — after being benched last week with two interceptions — a flawless evening on that front.

The win somewhat avenges the heartbreaking loss suffered to the Falcons just 11 days earlier in which Carolina kicker Eddie Pineiro missed two kicks which would have sealed the victory.

But this time around, in rainy conditions in North Carolina, Pineiro successfully made four field goals as the Panthers claimed an important victory.

Foreman, a free agent signing in the offseason, has thrived in the starting role since Christian McCaffrey was traded in October.

In the past four games, the 26-year-old has totaled 389 rushing yards and four touchdowns as he makes the case for a long-term contract with the team.

Interim Panthers head coach Steve Wilks called Foreman “very impressive” afterwards, while the running back said it “means a lot” to beat the Falcons after the heartbreak of a few weeks ago.

“This is my second time playing them in a Carolina uniform. I know how much these guys want to win this game,” he said.

“I know how much it means to the organization and to the guys in this locker room. It was big, especially on primetime TV. We played a collective game: offense, defense, special teams, we just put it together. We were able to get the win.”

For the Falcons, their inconsistent season continues.

The team, which wasn’t tipped to achieve much in what has been widely assumed a developmental season, has shown glimpses of what it could be in impressive victories against the Seattle Seahawks, the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns.

But, while they have remained frisky, they have also shown significant flaws. And one of the biggest question marks is over starting quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Mariota, the No. 2 pick of the 2015 NFL draft by the Tennessee Titans, signed with the Falcons in the offseason after a few difficult years as the Las Vegas Raiders’ backup quarterback.

And although he’s shown some positives this season — in particular his running ability — Thursday night highlighted Mariota’s limitations.

In, albeit, difficult conditions for a quarterback with wet footballs, the 29-year-old threw for 186 yards, two touchdowns — to rookie Drake London and fifth-year veteran KhaDarel Hodge — and a grisly interception with a lot of passes going astray.

Having drafted Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 draft, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith fielded questions from the media about whether he was considering throwing the rookie out of Cincinnati into the game instead of Mariota.

But Smith was adamant in his defense of Mariota afterwards.

“I know that’s a popular narrative, those are the easy questions to ask,” Smith said when asked if a quarterback change was something he’d consider ahead of Atlanta’s Week 11 game against the Chicago Bears.

“But as a whole team, we’ve got to do a better job, starting with myself. So we look every week to make sure we’ve got the right guys in the right spots.”

In a struggling NFC South division, which is led by the 4-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, two wins in their last four games has kept the Panthers relevant at 3-7, while the Falcons slip to 4-6 on the year.

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