Falcons Hand Panthers First Loss, Keep Playoff Hopes Alive With 20-13 Win

The Atlanta Falcons ended the Carolina Panthers' undefeated season, beating them 20-13 at home to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Atlanta also snapped the Panthers' 18-game regular season winning streak, which was the third longest in NFL history.

Carolina, who came into the game as just the fourth team in NFL history to start a season 14-0, scored a touchdown on their first drive, but the Falcons controlled the game from there.

Atlanta responded with their next possession, going on a 16-play, 80-yard drive to tie the game. The game remained 7-7 until the third quarter, when a field goal by Graham Gano gave the Panthers a 10-7 lead.

However, the game changed on the next drive when Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones jumped and caught this incredible 70-yard touchdown pass over star linebacker Luke Kuechly:

That gave Atlanta the lead for the rest of the game as their inconsistent defense stepped up, limiting the Panthers to just one more field goal the rest of the way.

Cam Newton had his worst game of the season, throwing for just 142 yards and no touchdowns against the Falcons. Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan finished with 306 yards passing and that touchdown pass to Julio Jones, who caught nine passes for 178 yards.

While Carolina has already clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs, Atlanta needs some help to make the playoffs. First, they need to win next week against the New Orleans Saints, then they need both the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings to lose their last two games, along with the San Francisco 49ers winning one of their last two games and the Denver Broncos beating the San Diego Chargers next week (for tiebreaker purposes).

The Panthers have another chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in their regular-season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

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Related Topics: Panthers News, Julio Jones, Luke Kuechly, NFL News, Matt Ryan, Falcons News, Cam Newton