Led by Foreman, a tough Carolina Panthers team is somehow in the playoff hunt at 3-7


This time no one took a helmet off, no one missed a game-winning kick and absolutely no one stayed dry. The Carolina Panthers’ 25-15 upset win over the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night in Charlotte continued their maddeningly inconsistent season and meant their faint playoff hopes, even at 3-7, haven’t died. Like D’Onta Foreman climbing into the crowd — which the running back did, in a sort-of Lambeau Leap that was more of a Carolina Crawl and required a push from a teammate to complete — the Panthers rose again. This was tough stuff in the most literal sense, as the Panthers acted like the bigger brother to a Falcons team that got both outplayed and out-physicaled. Carolina keeps trying to establish that sort of identity and on this night, one fit for a snorkel, it worked. "As a defensive guy, I understand there’s nothing more demoralizing than having 200-something yards run on you," said Panthers head coach Steve Wilks, who improved to 2-3 in his interim role. "It just kills your morale." No one in the NFC South has a winning record entering Sunday’s slate of games, and so the Panthers are still in last place but quite alive in an embarrassingly down division. They have beat up on the other patsies, going 3-1 against the NFC South and 0-6 against everyone else. Foreman’s 31-carry, 130-yard, man-of-the-people night was the headliner, along with the defense. Foreman said his climb amid the fans was just "something I always wanted to do. I actually just wanted to get into the stands." He also said the stunt knocked over at least one fan’s beer and sent it "bursting," but no one seemed to mind. The Panthers wore all black and debuted a black helmet for the first time in franchise history, and the look that was supposed to make the team look meaner somehow worked, too. Bring out the black helmets more than once a year if they’re going to have that sort of effect — Carolina had five sacks and harassed Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota all night.

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