Delhomme Turnover-Free Again, Panthers Beat Falcons

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

CHARLOTTE, N.C.(AP) Jake Delhomme went turnover-free for the third straight game, finding Steve Smith for two touchdowns, and the Carolina Panthers held on for a 28-19 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

Matt Ryan twice seemed poised to lead Atlanta on the winning drive. First, his kicker let him down. Then his sophomore troubles popped up again.

The Panthers (4-5) built a 21-10 halftime lead, but the win wasn't sealed until Richard Marshall picked off Ryan, setting up Jonathan Stewart 's 45-yard touchdown run with 2:07 left.

Earlier, Jason Elam missed a 34-yard field goal that would have given Atlanta (5-4) the lead.

The Falcons lost Michael Turner to a sprained right ankle in the second quarter after he had already rushed for 111 yards on just nine carries.

Jason Snelling replaced him, finishing with 61 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but the Falcons fell to 1-4 on the road thanks to a less-than-stellar performance from their quarterback.

Ryan completed just 7 of 19 passes for 48 yards and an interception in the first half, often overthrowing receivers and rattled by Carolina's pressure.

The second half was much better. He got the Falcons to 21-19 when he found tight end Justin Peelle for a 3-yard TD on fourth-and-1. The 2-point conversion attempt with 13:44 left failed when Chris Gamble tackled Snelling on a swing pass.

Ryan later converted a third-and-11 from his own 3 with a 13-yard pass to Tony Gonzalez . But the drive stalled and Elam, hesitated twice before pulling the short field-goal attempt with 6:35 left.

The Panthers went three-and-out and Eric Weems returned the ensuing punt to the Carolina 49. But Ryan threw into double coverage, ending Atlanta's hopes.

Ryan was 22 of 41 for 224 yards and one touchdown, but he threw two interceptions and now has 12, one more than all of his sensational rookie season.

For Carolina, the Panthers changed their offense, then overcame the loss of left tackle Jordan Gross to a broken right ankle to win for the fourth time in six games following their 0-3 start.

After a three-and-out on their first possession, the Panthers turned to a no-huddle offense to get going. Delhomme looked sharp, completing all four passes for 75 yards in a drive capped by Stewart's 1-yard TD run.

Smith's first TD came after DeAngelo Williams ' cutback 28-yard run. Smith later was crunched by two defenders on a 4-yard TD catch for a 21-10 halftime lead.

Smith walked to the locker room with sore ribs in a first half full of key injuries.

Turner rolled his ankle at the end of a 10-yard run, just before backup Snelling's 1-yard run for Atlanta's only first-half touchdown.

Gross was carted off the field on the next series, leaving the Panthers without the anchor of their offensive line. Coach John Fox said after the game that his ankle was broken.

Travelle Wharton moved to left tackle and inexperienced Mackenzy Bernadeau played in Wharton's old spot at left guard.

Delhomme, who had thrown 13 interceptions in the first six games, went 15 of 24 for 195 yards. Williams (92 yards) and Stewart (82) wore down Atlanta on the ground as Carolina avoided a season sweep.


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