BLOG: Panthers Want Division Crown, Sweep of Rival Falcons

Carolina Panthers safety Mike Adams (29) breaks up a pass intended by Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) during the first quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
↓ Advertisement ↓

FINAL: Falcons 22, Panthers 10

Another interception in the end zone. Fitting end to an ugly game, maybe the Panthers' worst of the season.

Panthers get within the 10, but a pair of penalties push them back out to the 19. 16 seconds left. 

Luke says it:

↓ Advertisement ↓

Bryant makes his fourth field goal. 22-10.

Newton throws another interception and that will probably do it. Olsen had to go up high to even get a hand on it and deflect it. Panthers all out of sorts on offense today. Only one big play on the Funchess catch. Newton now 9 of 26 passing with 2 interceptions. 

Sanu drops a ball that would have secured a first down and the Panthers still have a pulse. 4:29 left and the Panthers need two scores down 19-10. 

Falcons force 3rd and 14, Newton overthrows Olsen and the Panthers will have to punt again. Hopefully, this offensive performance isn't a sign of things to come for Carolina. Falcons get it back with 5:27 left. Lots of miscommunication and inaccurate throws today. 

Kuechly with the big sack to force a 56-yard field goal try and it's good. What a kick by Bryant. His fourth field goal of the day. 19-10 and 6:37 left in the game.

Jones with a catch-and-run of 27 yards on a curl route. 

Graham Gano's 42-yard field goal try is good and the Panthers move within a score. It's 16-10 with 10:34 left. 

A mishandled snap by Newton and Artis Payne causes a loss and a third and long. Panthers just haven't looked in sync this game. 3rd and 7 and Funchess makes a great catch on a deep ball. 44 yards. That may be what the Panthers needed. 

Sanu comes up a yard short of a first down on a quick screen pass. Another 30-yard field goal for Matt Bryant and the Falcons now lead 16-7. 14:11 remaining. Making Atlanta settle for field goals has been big for keeping Carolina in it. 

End 3rd Quarter: Falcons 13, Panthers 7

Mohamed Sanu reels in a catch for a first down and gets an extra 15 yards added on a Carolina penalty. 

A huge stand by the Panthers. Kawann Short knocks down a pass to force a field goal try. The 42-yard kick by Bryant is good and the Falcons get three points off the turnover. 13-7. 

Cam throws on interception and the Falcons have it at the Carolina 39. A 12-yard pass to Mohamed Sanu and the Falcons are in business. 

Falcons almost had a touchdown pass, but it was ruled incomplete on the challenge. Kuechly had a good look at it and advised Ron Rivera to challenge the call. On 3rd and 10, Captain Munnerlyn causes an incompletion. Matt Bryant kicks a 30-yard field goal and the Falcons take a 10-7 lead. 6:31 left in the third quarter. 

Panthers go three and out to start the second half.

HALF: Panthers 7, Falcons 7 - Panthers are glad to be tied after a cold start offensively. Defense has looked good with the exception of one possession. Panthers have to do better job of containing Freeman, who has eight catches. Also penalties have hurt Atlanta, while Carolina is yet to be whistled. Newton is 7 of 7 passing after starting 0 for 9.

Newton fires to Funchess for a touchdown! We're tied at 7 with 50 seconds left in the half. A 16-play, 78-yard drive gets the Panthers back in it. 

Brenton Bersin gets a 27-yard catch on 3rd and 23! What a play. 55 seconds left and Panthers have first and goal. Newton has completed six straight passes after starting 0 for 9. 

At the 2-minute warning, Panthers face 4th and inches at the 18 and Newton gets across the line for a first down. 

On 3rd and 10, Newton connects with Olsen for a first down. Atlanta challenging to see if the catch was completed. 

Panthers only have 39 total yards, all through the run game, through the first quarter. 

Newton's struggles continue as Newton's ninth pass is broken up. Olsen is frustrated again. 

Another incompletion for Newton, a pass to Greg Olsen was tipped by Deion Jones. Olsen is livid as he feels he was hit on helmet to helmet contact. Panthers punt again. 

Newton is 0 for 6 passing so far. Not an ideal start. Panthers not playing with much urgency yet. 

Ryan goes deep to Jones on 3rd down and Panthers do a good job of covering it. Falcons punt. 

Ryan finds Freeman again for his 5th catch of the day, 26 yards and a first down. 

Desmond Trufant breaks up a pass intended for Devin Funchess on 3rd and 10. Might have made contact with Funchess early, but no flag. Falcons get it back at their own 21. 

Panthers are ready for a screen pass to Freeman and stop him in the backfield on 3rd and short. 

Falcons guard Andy Levitre is questionable to return with a triceps injury. 

Cam Newton overthrows Christian McCaffrey on 3rd and 12. Panthers will have to punt from their own 23. 

Jones dumps it off to Devonta Freeman over the middle and he gets into the end zone. Falcons score first in a must-win game for them. 7-0 Atlanta after the extra point. 10-play, 75-yard drive to start.

Falcons move into Panthers territory on 3 straight completions by Ryan.

Jones is shaken up on Mike Adams' huge hit over the middle. 

Matt Ryan finds Julio Jones over the middle for the first first down of the game. Captain Munnerlyn was hanging on to his jersey. 

It's time for kickoff! The Panthers won the coin toss and defer to the second half. Atlanta will get the ball first. 

Hey folks! Thanks for joining us again for the Panthers live game blog! It's the Panthers' final regular season game against defending NFC champion Atlanta Falcons and it's a big one with playoff implications. 

The Panthers have already clinched a playoff spot with last week's win against Tampa Bay. Atlanta is hoping to secure the second wild card spot with a victory. The division is still possible for Carolina, but they'll need to win today and get some help.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (back) and safety Kurt Coleman (ankle) are inactive today.

RELATED: They're in! Late Touchdown Gives Panthers Playoff Spot in Victory

Here's a look at the playoff scenarios for today's game:

  • Falcons can clinch playoff spot with win or Seattle loss to Arizona.
  • Panthers already have playoff spot and can clinch NFC South with win and Saints loss or tie. Panthers can also win division with tie and Saints loss.
  • Panthers can clinch first-round bye with win, Saints loss or tie, Vikings loss and Rams loss or tie.

Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (back) and safety Kurt Coleman (ankle) are inactive today.

Here's some pregame notes to get you ready:

  • The Panthers are 5-2 on road. 
  • Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is 2-4 vs. the Falcons in hometown of Atlanta. ...
  • Newton has engineered winning drives in two of last three weeks. He has 15 winning drives during career. 
  • Newton has 54 career touchdowns rushing, most by any NFL quarterback. ...
  • RB Christian McCaffrey tied for NFL lead for receptions by rookie (75). ... RB Jonathan Stewart has TD rushing in last three road games.  
  • Panthers receiver Devin Funchess averaging 84 yards receiving per game with two TDs in last two road games.
  • Panthers have 15 sacks and 10 takeaways in last three games. 
  • Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers has 20 career fumble recoveries, including two last week. Peppers has five sacks in last six road games.
  • Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has a 94.1 passer rating in 19 career games against Panthers.  
  • Falcons receiver Julio Jones is third in the NFL with 1,364 yards receiving.  
  • Linebacker Deion Jones leads Falcons with three INTs, tied for most in NFL for a linebacker, and 128 tackles.
  • Julio Jones is the only NFL player with at least 125 tackles and three interceptions.