Ryan, Falcons avenge earlier loss to Panthers, 25-17 – The Denver Post

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — This time, the Atlanta Falcons finished.

Matt Ryan threw for 281 yards and ran for a touchdown, Younghoe Koo made four field goals and the Atlanta Falcons held on to beat the Carolina Panthers 25-17 on Thursday night behind a strong defensive performance to avoid a series season sweep.

The Falcons (2-6) have had a penchant for squandering leads, coming into the game 1-3 when leading entering the fourth quarter. Carolina was driving late, but Atlanta stopped the rally when Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted Teddy Bridgewater near the Falcons’ 10-yard line with 1:04 remaining.

“That’s what we’ve been talking about, ending games with either sacks or interceptions and the guys went out today and did exactly that,” Falcons coach Raheem Morris. “The ball went up in the air and Blidi came down with it and it was awesome.”

Todd Gurley grinded out 46 yards rushing and a touchdown, Julio Jones added 137 yards receiving against a banged-up Panthers secondary and the Falcons defense limited the Panthers to 2 of 10 on third down conversions to improve to 2-1 since Morris replaced Dan Quinn as head coach.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule said it felt like Bridgewater was constantly under duress.

“We had a hard time blocking their front,” Rhule said. “We weren’t able to get our receivers involved. We were 2 of 10 on third downs and we can’t live like that.”

Bridgewater tried to spur Carolina to a comeback in front of a sparse crowd of 5,240 due to COVID-19 after Koo missed an extra point that would have made it a two-possession game.

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Bridgewater, who was knocked out of the game for two possessions with a neck injury following a late hit by Charles Harris — one that resulted in him being ejected — took over with the Panthers down by eight points with less than 3 minutes to play. He completed a 35-yard strike to D.J. Moore on third and 18 to move the Panthers into Falcons territory. But his final pass was easily picked.

Bridgewater was limited to 176 yards passing as the Panthers (3-5) lost their third straight game without injured Christian McCaffrey.

“I don’t think any of us played real well tonight,” Rhule said of Bridgewater’s performance.