Falcons win in an emotion roller coaster of a game against Panthers

ATLANTA (AP) — D.J. Moore hauled in a last-minute touchdown pass but ripped off his helmet, Carolina’s Eddy Piñeiro missed a pair of potential winning kicks, and the Atlanta Falcons escaped with a victory that was as improbable as their spot in the standings.

First place.

Younghoe Koo booted a 41-yard field goal in overtime after a silly penalty by Moore opened the door for the Falcons to pull off a 37-34 victory Sunday that maintained their hold on the NFC South lead.

“Our guys don’t blink,” said Marcus Mariota, who got a chance on his 29th birthday to make up for an interception that could’ve — should’ve, really — sent his team to a loss.

It will surely be the favorite gift he gets this year.

The teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 3:06 of regulation. But it looked like the Panthers would prevail in stunning fashion when Moore hauled in a 62-yard scoring heave from P.J. Walker with 12 seconds remaining, tying the game at 34 with only an extra point needed to win it.

But Moore yanked off his helmet during a raucous celebration in the end zone, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“I’ve got to understand that there’s still time on the clock,” Moore said. “It was a natural reaction, but you’ve still got to know you can’t do that.”

Moore’s blunder pushed back the PAT to a 48-yard attempt, and Piñeiro pulled it left of the upright.

Carolina had another chance to win in OT after C.J. Henderson returned an interception 54 yards to the Falcons 20. But Piñeiro botched another kick, yanking a wobbler left again from 32 yards out — shorter than a regular extra point.

“I just missed the kick,” Piñeiro said. “I’ve got to make the kick. It hurts. You know, I love this team and I know they’ve got my back and I know it’s not going to define me as a kicker. Everybody misses kicks. Unfortunately mine was today.”

Piñeiro and the Panthers wouldn’t get a third shot.

Mariota, who threw three touchdown passes, ripped off a 30-yard run for the Falcons (4-4) that set up Koo’s game-winner with 1:55 left in the extra period.

“He’s a resilient guy,” Falcons coach Arthur Smith said when asked about Mariota’s big run. “That’s why we believe in Marcus. There’s not many guys who can make that play.”

Categories: Sports – ATL Falcons, Sports – Local Sports News