CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With some help from ESPN Stats & Information, let’s take a by-the-numbers look back at how the Carolina Panthers defeated the Atlanta Falcons, 30-20, on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
The Panthers tore the Falcons apart with play-action passing. The Panthers gained 172 yards on play-action plays. That’s a bit surprising because Atlanta’s defense had been good against play-action, limiting opponents to a league-best Total QBR in the first 12 games. Cam Newton completed 12 of his 16 play-action passes and averaged 10.4 yards per attempt. Newton’s scoring strike to DeAngelo Williams was only the second touchdown pass the Falcons have allowed on a play-action pass this year.
Newton’s third-quarter 72-yard touchdown run was the longest option run of his career and covered more rushing yards than Newton had in any previous single game of his career. Newton finished with 116 rushing yards on nine carries. Newton became the first player in NFL history with at least 250 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run in the game.
Just watching the game, I knew that Atlanta’s defense was bad on third downs, but I didn’t realize how bad until I looked at the final statistics. The Panthers converted nine of 15 third-down attempts. Entering the game, the Falcons had held opponents to converting on just 42 percent of third-down plays, which ranked fourth in the NFL. The Panthers also converted all five of their third downs of two yards or less.