ATLANTA — D.J. Moore sat on the bench alone after the game was over, still trying to process what had happened to the Carolina Panthers.
“What would’ve happened if I didn’t take my helmet off?” Moore said after the Panthers’ 37-34 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. “I went back to what happened. That’s about it.”
Moore’s rash decision to take off his helmet after catching a spectacular 62-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in regulation resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That forced the Panthers to try the extra point from 48 yards.
Sure enough, Eddy Piñeiro missed the kick, barely left of the goal post, and Carolina's chance at a thrilling victory was dashed.
It got even worse with 5:59 to go in overtime when Piñeiro missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt that would’ve won it. The ball sailed even farther left than his earlier PAT try.
Piñeiro blamed himself for poor mechanics on the second kick.
“I just came across it,” Piñeiro said. “My hips came across it. I should’ve kept my hips forward and I just kind came across the ball.”
Then he blamed himself for losing the game.
“I’ve just got to make the kick,” he said. “There’s no excuses. I’ve got to face this. It’s on me. They fought hard. I put this on myself.”
Younghoe Koo won the game in overtime with a 41-yard field goal, and the Panthers (2-6) failed to build upon their 21-3 win a week earlier over Tom Brady and Tampa Bay, a surprising result in the debut of interim coach Steve Wilks.
At least Carolina can be credited with keeping the pressure on Atlanta most of the game. The Panthers scored 21 points in the fourth quarter as D’Onta Foreman had two rushing touchdowns in the final period — he finished with a career-best three scores — and a 2-point conversion run.
The Falcons (4-4) answered with a 47-yard TD when Marcus Mariota connected with Damiere Byrd for a 31-28 lead, and Koo followed with a 34-yard field goal that put Atlanta up 34-28 with 36 seconds to go in regulation. Three snaps later, P.J. Walker launched a beautifully thrown ball down the left side of the field.
Moore ran past reserve free safety Dean Marlowe to make an over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone. He immediately took off his helmet to celebrate, though, and was quickly flagged.
“It was a natural reaction, but you’ve still got to know you can’t do that, especially with the time left on the clock,” Moore said, adding that the route was an easy one. “I had a post, and they started scrambling. I didn’t see the ball in the air yet and seen him launch it and reaccelerated and just made a play. After that, I just remember the flag and the ref coming up to me.”
Foreman was a steady presence for Carolina, running 26 times for 118 yards. Moore caught six passes for 152 yards, and Walker completed 19 of 36 attempts for 317 yards, the big TD and an interception.
The Panthers visit Cincinnati next Sunday before getting a second crack at the Falcons on Thursday, Nov. 10.
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