Atlanta Falcons flying into playoffs after win over Carolina Panthers

ATLANTA — The Atlanta Falcons have stamped their ticket into the playoffs.

Atlanta got out to an early 7-0 lead and never relinquished it against the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s NFC South showdown. The Falcons came away with a 22-10 win in Sunday’s win-and-get-in game.

1. The Carolina Panthers aerial attack got off to a pitiful start. Cam Newton started the game 0-for-9 passing. He didn’t complete a pass until the second quarter and that went for negative three yards. Most people will blame Newton for the lackluster start but Carolina’s pass catchers struggled to get open against Atlanta’s secondary throughout the entire contest.

Newton finished 13-of-34 passing for 180 yards for 1 touchdown and 3 interceptions, resulting in a 31.5 passer rating.

The game provided another illustration of the Panthers’ mediocre receiving corps. Carolina desperately needs to get a true No. 1 wide receiver when their season ends.

2. Give kicker Matt Bryant a game ball. Bryant was perfect kicking the football on Sunday. The 42-year old kicker went 5-for-5 kicking field goals in the second half, including a crucial 56-yard field goal that made it a two-possession game with a little under 7 minutes remaining.

Bryant’s five field goals in the second half were the most ever in his career.

“Part of being a good kicker is having mental toughness and [Matt Bryant] has got that in abundance,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told the media following the contest.

Not bad for the 16-year veteran.

3. Atlanta’s incompetence in the takeaway department was not present in Week 17. The Falcons intercepted Cam Newton three times. Defensive backs Keanu Neal, Ricardo Allen and Robert Alford picked off interceptions in the 22-10 win

“We played good that was one of our better games. We came together, we played as a team and we played as a whole group,” Allen said after the win.

4. The Falcons’ entire defense deserves a shoutout.

“We played really well and that starts in practice, taking advantage of each day. Once you get to the game it gets easy,” Neal said. “We just kept fight and kept playing and that was huge for us.”

Atlanta’s three interceptions are noteworthy. Additionally, the Falcons limited Carolina to one touchdown. Newton and the Panthers had just 248 total yards on offense. Week 17 might have been Atlanta’s best defensive performance and it’s fine time for the Falcons to get their stride on defense with the playoffs officially here.

5. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones aren’t as explosive as a year ago. Nevertheless, the two are still a force to be reckoned with. Jones made history on Sunday. The Falcons wideout became just the second receiver to have at least 1,400 receiving yards for four-consecutive seasons. Jones compiled



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