Instead of taking the blame for another Atlanta loss, Tim Dwight played a big part in a rare Falcons' victory Sunday.
The Falcons (2-6) were coming off a dismal 13-9 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday night, winding up at the Steelers 5 as time ran out. On the final play of that game, Dwight didn't run the proper route, and Chandler's pass sailed behind his receiver in the end zone.
He doubled his career total of touchdown catches with a 35-yard scoring play late in the first quarter giving Atlanta its first lead in three weeks and a 4-yarder on the first play of the final period.
"Tim did a good job of route-running," said Chandler, who was 14-of-21 for 201 yards. "Tim has a chance to be a good receiver."
Atlanta twice built 14-point leads before Carolina's Steve Beuerlein scored on a 1-yard sneak with 3:06 remaining.
The Panthers (2-5) got the ball back at their own 29 with 15 seconds left, but Gerald McBurrows came up with his team's third interception against Beuerlein. That sealed the Falcons victory and a miserable day for the Carolina quarterback, who also lost two fumbles to account for all five turnovers by his team.
"I've never been responsible for five turnovers in my life," said Beuerlein, who was 21-of-35 for 256 yards. "Today, it happened. I didn't play nearly as well as should have for us to have a chance to win."
The Falcons, meanwhile, did a lot of the things that carried them to the Super Bowl last season.
Ken Oxendine (career-high 64 yards, first NFL TD) and Byron Hanspard (44 yards) combined to put the Falcons over 100 yards on the ground for only the second time this season. They had been ranked next-to-last in the NFL in rushing yards, averaging just 69 per game and 2.8 per carry.
"The way this offense is set up, you have to run the football," Chandler said. "You don't have to run for 120 yards a game, but running makes the other parts of the offense go."
The Falcons, who had the NFL's worst turnover ratio at minus-11, played a turnover-over free game to finish the day with a plus-five.
"Early on, the ball wasn't bouncing our way," said Eugene Robinson, who had one of the interceptions. "Today, it bounced our way and we took advantage. ... This was something we desperately needed."
The Falcons' 27th-rated rushing defense limited the Panthers to just 63 yards. Carolina played without Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who sat out because of a sore ankle. Atlanta also sacked Beuerlein six times, nearly half of its total (13) through the first seven games.
Finally, the Falcons won for the first time at the Georgia Dome after losing its first three home games of the season. A year ago, Atlanta was unbeaten at the Dome en route to the NFC title.
The Falcons led 13-6 at halftime as Atlanta's Morten Andersen and Carolina's John Kasay traded field goals. Andersen connected from 39 and 24 yards, while Kasay connected from 31 and 51 yards, the latter with just 11 second left in the half.
Oxendine scored on a 1-yard run with 5:44 left in the third period, a play that was set up by Beuerlein's first fumble. The ball came loose on a hit by Chuck Smith and Shane Dronett picked it up, running 15 yards to the Carolina 5.
A face mask penalty on the tackle pushed the ball to the 2, and Oxendine scored two plays later for the first TD of his two-year career to increase the Falcons lead to 20-6.
Carolina got back in the game on the very next play, a 100-yard kickoff return by Michael Bates. He broke free down the right sideline and slipped by Andersen's weak attempt to push him out of bounds at the 25.
But the Falcons scored on their next possession. Dwigh caught a 22-yard pass from Chandler and Hanspard had runs of 10 and 13 yards to set up the short scoring pass to Dwight.
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