ATLANTA (AP)Atlanta’s Younghoe Koo booted a 41-yard field goal in overtime after the Carolina Panthers missed a pair of kicks that could’ve won it, giving the Falcons an improbable 37-34 victory Sunday that maintained their hold on first place in the NFC South.
The teams combined for three touchdowns in the final 3:06 of regulation before a silly penalty by the Panthers’ D.J. Moore opened the door for the Falcons (4-4) to pull it out.
With the Falcons up 34-28, Carolina (2-6) appeared to have won the game in stunning fashion when Moore hauled in a 62-yard touchdown heave from P.J. Walker with 12 seconds remaining.
But Moore ripped off his helmet during a raucous celebration in the end zone, resulting in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That pushed back the extra point to a 48-yard attempt, and Eddy Pineiro pulled it left of the upright.
Carolina (2-6) had another chance to win in OT after C.J. Henderson returned an interception 54 yards to the Falcons 20. But Pineiro botched another kick, yanking a wobbler left again from 32 yards out – shorter than a regular extra point.
The Panthers wouldn’t get another shot. Marcus Mariota, who threw three touchdown passes, ripped off a 30-yard run for the Falcons that set up Koo’s game-winner with 1:55 left in the extra period.
The Panthers had a chance to create a four-team logjam in the NFC South. Instead, the Falcons have the lead all to themselves with a .500 record.
Mariota was 20 of 28 for 253 yards with a pair of interceptions, his first coming on the second play of the game.
But he was awfully good between those two picks, completing 12 straight passes at one point.
In the end, Mariota used his legs to burst from the pocket, veer toward the sideline and finish off the big run that would finally end the game.
The Panthers will regret how they let this one get away. They wasted a three-touchdown performance by D’Onta Foreman, who filled in brilliantly for injured running back Chuba Hubbard.
Foreman, who had 118 yards on 26 carries, scored the last of his touchdowns on a 12-yard run with 3:06 to go, pushing the Panthers to a 31-28 lead.
Mariota and the Falcons needed less than a minute to go back in front. Damiere Byrd hauled in a pass around the 32, looped across the field and found a lane for a 47-yard TD with 2:14 on the clock.
The Panthers went out on downs, and the Falcons padded the lead on Koo’s 36-yard field goal with 34 seconds remaining.
Enough time, it turned out, for the Panthers to score a touchdown. Moore ran right by Dean Marlowe, taking a more prominent role in the Falcons’ injury depleted secondary, and hauled in what appeared to be the winning score after an impressive heave by Walker.
Moore finished with six catches for 152 yards and would have been the hero. But he yanked off his helmet – and the victory slipped away.
Panthers: S Juston Burris went out with a concussion. … CB Donte Jackson sustained an ankle injury late in the game.
Falcons: Already depleted in the secondary, Atlanta got a scare when cornerback Cornell Armstrong wobbled off the field midway through the third quarter. But he missed only a couple of plays before returning.
Panthers: Hit the road again next Sunday to face the Cincinnati Bengals.
Falcons: Host the Los Angeles Chargers next Sunday.
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