CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The toughest thing Carolina Panthers running back D’Onta Foreman did on a rainy Thursday night in which he rushed 31 times for 130 yards in a 25-15 victory against the Atlanta Falcons was jump into the stands after his third-quarter touchdown.
“They helped me up there,” Foreman said of the Carolina fans at Bank of America Stadium being deluged by Tropical Storm Nicole. “It was kind of a high jump. I didn’t expect it to be that high. It was cool though. It was something I always wanted to do.”
Once Foreman, who is 6-3, 235 pounds, scaled the 6-foot-10 wall, he faced another obstacle.
“The only thing I seen was somebody had a drink or a beer or something, and it started bursting everywhere,” Foreman said. “But I didn’t even care. I was just excited. I was in the moment.”
The Carolina running game has been bursting everywhere since star back Christian McCaffrey was traded to the San Francisco 49ers after Week 6.
Led by Foreman, who has topped 118 yards rushing three times in the past four games, the Panthers have averaged 159.5 yards on the ground since moving on from McCaffrey. That’s the sixth-best rushing attack in the NFL.
The team averaged only 90.3 yards rushing, 26th-best in the NFL, during the first six games with McCaffrey getting the bulk of the carries.
The commitment to the run has helped Carolina win two of its past four games to improve to 3-7 and remain relevant in the NFC South, which is led by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4-5.
Foreman has benefited the most since the trade. He had only 12 carries for 35 yards the first six games. He has 79 carries for 389 yards and four touchdowns the past four games.
The only game in which he didn’t get 100 yards was Sunday’s 42-21 loss to Cincinnati in which the Panthers basically abandoned the run down 35-0 at halftime. He carried the first four plays on Thursday and finished with a career-high in carries.
“I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” said Foreman, who wondered if his football career was over last season before the Tennessee Titans signed him when star Derrick Henry suffered a foot injury in early November.
He responded with 566 yards on 133 carries in nine games for the Titans. He also scored three times, and once attempted to jump into the stands.
“But I didn’t get all the way in,” Foreman said with a laugh. “So this time I had to get all the way in the stands.”
Despite playing on a short week, Foreman’s 31 rushes were the most by a Carolina player since Nick Goings had 33 in Week 16 of 2004.
His three 100-yard games in four weeks equals the total Carolina backs had in their previous 46 games. McCaffrey had two and Chuba Hubbard one.
Foreman was so effective against the Falcons that quarterback PJ Walker threw for only 108 yards on 10-of-16 passing. The team’s 101 passing yards (including sacks) was its fewest in a win since 2009.
Walker said Foreman made his job easy. Interim coach Steve Wilks called Foreman’s effort “very impressive.”
Foreman gave all the credit to his offensive line that has responded well to Wilks committing to the run more than former coach Matt Rhule did during a 1-4 start.
“The way they’re creating those holes and moving those guys I just benefit from the hard work they put in,” he said.
The line was blocking so well that Foreman already had his touchdown celebration planned a couple of plays before his 12-yard scoring run that made it 19-9.
“I just kind of had it planned out already,” he said. “It’s like we ran duo first, and I’m like if I pop it I’m going into the stands. Then the play after that I got the ball again and I was like, ‘If I get this, I’m going into the stands.'”
He just didn’t count on the wall being so tall.