The Carolina Panthers have won just two home games this season, none since the month of September, running their streak to five straight in the loss column at Bank of America Stadium after a 29-21 defeat Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons.
Carolina turned the ball over three times, as both Cam Newton & PJ Walker each threw interceptions with Newton also surrendering a fumble.
“Like many other games a lot of self-inflicted errors,” Head Coach Matt Rhule said. “Odds are against you, in the 80s when you turn it over three times.”
Newton and the Panthers offense, armed with new Offensive Coordinator Jeff Nixon, marched the football down the field on their opening drive, culminating with a Newton 12-yard touchdown run. Carolina also scored in its first possession of the third quarter, the first offensive score in the third quarter at home this season.
In between, Atlanta found ways to move the football with a balanced attack, rushing it 36 times for 128 yards, and Falcons QB Matt Ryan completing 19-of-28 passes for 190 yards with a touchdown.
The Panthers fell to 0-7 when they allow a team to rush for 100 or more yards in a game.
Newton and Walker split time at quarterback, something that Newton said the coaches communicated to him throughout the week. All the principles agreed, however, the gameplan still had execution errors.
“I don’t have any strong feeling one way or another [towards either quarterback],” Rhule said. “But I know we have to play better at that position.”
“I hold myself to a better standard than the performance showed today,” Newton said.
Newton said he never saw the defender on his interception, which Falcons linebacker Mykal Walker returned for a touchdown. Walker threw a pick two drives later on third down under pressure that served as the equivalent of a punt.
The fumble from Newton came on an attempted handoff while center Pat Elflein stepped on the quarterback. Newton tried to hand the ball off anyway, saying after the game he should have “ate it” and went onto the next play instead of risking the miscue.
Carolina’s usually reliable pass-rush stayed nonexistent Sunday, as the Falcons held the Panthers to zero sacks after allowing three in the first meeting.
“I know that Mike Davis, or the coach had something to do with Mike Davis, coming at my side every time we were in a four-man rush he would motion out and then motion back in and pretty much chipped me every time,” Panthers defensive end Brian Burns said.
The Panthers dropped their first divisional game, falling to 2-1 against teams from the NFC South, with three games remaining.
Carolina (5-8) hits the road next week for a 1 PM contest at Buffalo (7-6).