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Foreman leads Panthers past rival Falcons in rain, 25-15

CHARLOTTE — D’Onta Foreman carried 31 times for 130 yards and a touchdown, Laviska Shenault added a 41-yard burst to the end zone and the Carolina Panthers beat the Atlanta Falcons 25-15 on a rainy Thursday night.

The Panthers (3-7) piled up a season-high 232 yards on the ground, and Eddy Pineiro kicked four field goals after he missed two critical kicks in a 37-34 overtime loss to the Falcons 11 days earlier.

Marcus Mariota finished 19 of 30 for 186 yards and two touchdowns, but was sacked five times and intercepted once.

Atlanta fell to 4-6, leaving Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) alone atop the NFC South. The Bucs play Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks in Munich, Germany.

Carolina improved to 2-3 since coach Matt Rhule was fired and replaced on an interim basis by Steve Wilks.

Foreman, who ran for 118 yards and three TDs in the last meeting on Oct. 30 in Atlanta, capped off a crucial seven-play, 84-yard drive with a 12-yard touchdown run off right tackle to give Carolina a 19-9 lead with 1:51 left in the third quarter.

The Falcons cut Carolina’s lead to 22-15 when Mariota found a wide-open KhaDarel Hodge for a 25-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the game after the Panthers botched a coverage assignment. Younghoe Koo, who had made 71 straight extra points, missed his second PAT of the game to keep the margin at seven points.

The Falcons got one last shot to tie the game, taking over at their own 34 with 2 1/2 minutes to play. But Carolina’s Marquis Haynes sacked Mariota twice and the Falcons turned the ball over on downs at their 15.

Carolina’s defense, which allowed Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon to run for 153 yards and four touchdowns — and the Bengals to amass 241 rushing yards as a team — on Sunday, held the league’s fourth-best rushing attack to 138 yards.

Atlanta came in averaging 162.9 yards on the ground.

The Panthers often stacked the box and sold out against the run, daring Mariota to beat them.

Shenault gave Carolina a 10-0 lead in the second quarter when he caught a swing pass from P.J. Walker after circling the backfield in motion and raced down the left sideline past five Falcons defenders — two of whom collided and took each other out of the play. The touchdown was ruled a rush because Walker’s toss was not a forward pass.

Pineiro, who missed a winning extra point at the end of regulation and a field goal in overtime in the previous meeting with the Falcons, connected on field goals of 46, 49, 40 and 37 yards for Carolina on a wet field. He missed one extra point.

Falcons-Panthers back at it less than 2 weeks after OT game

Despite a losing record, the Falcons (4-5) are in the mix for first place with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-5) in the NFC South. The Panthers (2-7) aren’t that far behind despite a dismal season.

The teams produced an exciting finish in Atlanta on Oct. 30. The Falcons prevailed 37-34 in overtime after the Panthers missed two kicks that would’ve ended it.

P.J. Walker again starts over Baker Mayfield at quarterback for Carolina despite posting a 0.0 passer rating last week. He threw for a career-high 317 yards and a touchdown in his previous game against the Falcons.

Marcus Mariota might spend the night handing off after the Falcons averaged 5.7 yards per carry in last week’s loss to the Chargers and surpassed 200 yards rushing for the third time this season.

The Falcons are 3-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Road teams have won four of the past five Thursday night games. Pro Picks leans toward Atlanta because the Panthers are better off accumulating losses to get a top draft pick to land a potential franchise QB.

>> The Panthers will debut the team’s alternate black helmets in conjunction with the all-black color rush uniforms on Thursday. If you’re going to the game, wear black too.

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