Can Anyone Escape The Chaos Pit That Is The NFC South?
7:09 PM EDT on October 30, 2022
A contest between two sub-.500 teams in the current manifestation of the NFC South is likely going to be a test of pain tolerance. It's important to note this, because up until the final 23 seconds of Sunday's matchup between Carolina and Atlanta, there was very little worth giving your attention.
Sure, the Panthers and Falcons were trading scores in the fourth quarter; D'Onta Foreman scored on a 12-yard run to put Carolina ahead at 28-24, Marcus Mariota took Atlanta down the field in four plays in less than a minute, connecting with Damiere Byrd on a 47-yard pass to put Atlanta up by three. They then extended their lead with a field goal that left 36 seconds on the clock.
And then, with 23 seconds left on the clock, Carolina quarterback P.J. Walker heaved a prayer down field to D.J. Moore and this happened.
The stuff of legends, or busted bets at least. Either way, an NFL RedZone alert that made viewers around the country gasp in shock, and mutter to no one in particular, "Good for them." All Carolina would have to do is kick an extra point and ... oh, wait.
For anyone who walked away from the TV after seeing the above clip, they may have missed the 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct call against Moore for taking off his helmet with 12 seconds left on the clock. It was a dumb thing to do, but then again it's not often someone actually hauls in a Hail Mary. So instead of a quick kick and an unexpected victory, Panthers kicker Eddy Piñeiro was facing a 48-yard attempt, which he promptly swung left.
Piñeiro would get another attempt to win the game in overtime, after a 54-yard interception return got the Panthers to the Atlanta 20. He sent that kick sailing left yet again. With 1:55 left in overtime, the Falcons brought the curtain down with a 41-yard kick from Younghoe Koo.
Games like this have a short shelf life, if only for the spark of chaos let loose in Sunday afternoon of games. Atlanta won, thanks in part to bad breaks on the other side of the field. The stakes here were not especially high: If the Panthers had won it would have created a vortex of shame in the NFC, with all four teams hovering around 3-5 records.
What have we learned from all of this? Not a whole lot. Certainly the value of keeping on your hat in your place of work. But really, how high are the expectations for a team that talked itself into Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, then traded away Christian McCaffrey? As for Moore, there's not much need for meditation or clarity on what happened: When asked by reporters after the game what was going through his head as he watched the Falcons win from the bench: "What would happen if I didn't take my helmet off."