Final

Falcons 31

(8-5, 4-3 away)

Panthers 23

(4-9, 2-5 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 11, 2011

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC 

1 2 3 4 T
ATL 7 0 10 1431
CAR 7 16 0 023

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 320 YDS, 4 TD

Rushing: D. Williams (CAR) - 7 CAR, 87 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: S. Smith (CAR) - 6 REC, 125 YDS

Falcons overcome 16-point deficit as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones burn Panthers

Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Matt Ryan can't explain why he seems to own the Carolina Panthers.

He just does.

Ryan led yet another comeback victory over the Panthers, giving him six wins in his last seven starts against the division rival.

Ryan threw two of his four touchdown passes in the fourth-quarter to rookie Julio Jones and the Falcons erased a 16-point halftime deficit for a 31-23 victory on Sunday. Ryan finished with 320 yards passing and his four TDs matched a career high. Equally as important, Ryan kept the Falcons (8-5) in playoff position in the wild card race with three games left.

"We approached it as the first of four legs," Ryan said. "We've knocked the first leg out and now we've got to move on and keep going."

Atlanta closes the season with Jacksonville at home, at New Orleans and at home against Tampa Bay.

Ryan's comeback shouldn't surprise anyone -- he seems to have Carolina's number.

The first time the teams met, the Falcons trailed by three points in the fourth quarter but rallied for a 31-17 win on Oct. 16.

Down 16 points at the half, Ryan earned his "Matty Ice" nickname.

He came out of the locker room poised and calm but firing on all cylinders in the second half, throwing for 232 yards and three scores.

Jones, who finished with 104 yards receiving, was quiet for most of the game but caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to give the Falcons a 24-23 lead early in the fourth quarter. After Olindo Mare missed a field goal that would have put the Panthers up by two, Ryan went for the jugular and found Jones across this middle for a catch-and-run 75-yard touchdown with 4:17 left in the game.

Carolina's final drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5 from the Atlanta 27.

"He just kept his poise," Jones said of Ryan. "He kept it positive on the sideline, encouraged us to keep it going, keep it going. Eventually, we did, and we came up with a W at the end."

Looking to push the tempo up, the Falcons went to a no-huddle offense quite a bit in the second half and tried to take advantage of a matchup with reserve cornerback Darius Butler on Jones

"We got a look where we felt we'd had a pretty good matchup on the backside with Julio (Jones)," Ryan said.

Both of Jones' touchdown catches came against Butler.

"You know, they were coming at me a few times with Julio," Butler said. "They like that matchup. I made some plays early and he made some big plays late. You've got to hold up. That's the name of the game. You got to finish it out."

For the Panthers (4-9), it was more of the same, marking the sixth time this season they've lost after being ahead or tied in the fourth quarter.

Cam Newton started strong, completing 9 of 14 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Panthers built a 23-7 lead. But Newton was intercepted twice in the second half, including once on a poor decision where he tried the shovel the ball ahead to running back Jonathan Stewart with his non-throwing left hand as he was falling to the ground. The result was a gift interception for Falcons linebacker Mike Peterson.

Ryan cashed in two plays later as running back Jacquizz Rodgers beat linebacker James Anderson for a 31-yard touchdown.

A glum Newton called his decision "terrible."

"I tried to get the ball to Stew and tried to avoid the sack," he said. "I should have just ate the ball and taken the sack. Both interceptions were my fault. If you expect to win games you have to protect the football and I did a poor job of that today."

Despite their struggles in the second half, the Panthers looked poised to regain the lead midway through the fourth quarter but Newton couldn't hook up with Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone and the Panthers settled for a 36-yard field goal attempt. But Mare, just as he'd done with a chance to tie the game late at home against Minnesota, pushed a very makeable go-ahead field goal wide left.

Coach Ron Rivera said he plans to sit down with Mare to talk about what's wrong.

"It's the second one he's hooked left, pretty much from almost the same area (on the field)," Rivera said of Mare, who was given a four-year, $12 million contract this offseason.

The Falcons seized the momentum.

Two plays later, on second-and-11, Jones caught a pass over the middle and broke through a tackle by Butler and Sherrod Martin and raced 75 yards to the end zone.

The Panthers spotted the Falcons a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter before seizing the momentum with 23 straight points to close the first half. Newton got the Panthers on the board with a nifty Tim Tebow-style play, faking a run up the middle and stopping to throw a jump pass over the middle to a wide open Jeremy Shockey for a 6-yard touchdown.

After a Jason Baker punt pinned the Falcons at their own 2, defensive end Antwan Applewhite sacked Ryan in the end zone and suddenly the Panthers could do no wrong.

Two plays later DeAngelo Williams sprinted around the right side and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. Carolina continued to pile on its next possession when Newton faked a screen to Stewart on one side and threw back to Olsen on the other, who raced 44 yards for a touchdown.

The Falcons outscored the Panthers 24-0 in the second half.

"We just brought a different attitude out there in the second half," said safety Thomas DeCoud. "They caught us off guard early with a couple of things they didn't show us on film. In the second half, we bit down and did what we needed to get done."

Game notes


The Falcons are 21-0 when Ryan has a quarterback rating of 100 or more. ... Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith became the 35th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards receiving for his career on a 16-yard reception in the second quarter.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
ATL
CAR
1st Downs1819
Passing 1st downs
1413
Rushing 1st downs
45
1st downs from penalties
01
3rd down efficiency
8-175-13
4th down efficiency
0-00-1
Total Plays6964
Total Yards394416
Yards per play5.76.5
Total Drives1414
Passing308259
Comp-Att
22-3819-39
Yards per pass
7.56.3
Interceptions thrown
02
Sacks-Yards Lost
3-122-17
Rushing86157
Rushing Attempts
2823
Yards per rush
3.16.8
Red Zone (Made-Att)2-31-2
Penalties5-505-50
Turnovers02
Fumbles lost
00
Interceptions thrown
02
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00
Possession30:4329:17

Passing Leaders

ATLC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Ryan22/383208.4403-12
CARC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Newton19/392767.1222-17

Rushing Leaders

ATLCARYDSAVGTDLG
Turner21763.6013
Snelling362.002
CARCARYDSAVGTDLG
Williams78712.4174
Newton7365.1012

Receiving Leaders

ATLRECYDSAVGTDLG
Jones310434.7275
White78412.0126
CARRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith612520.8048
Olsen25326.5144

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERATLCAR
atlTD5:35Roddy White 5 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 62 yds, 5:26
70
carTD0:07Jeremy Shockey 6 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 9 plays, 74 yds, 5:26
77
SECOND QUARTERATLCAR
carSF7:18Matt Ryan Sacked By Antwan Applewhite In End Zone For -8 Yards
Drive info: 3 plays, -4 yds, 1:34
79
carTD7:02Deangelo Williams 74 Yard Run (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 74 yds, 0:21
716
carTD3:15Greg Olsen 44 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Olindo Mare Kick is Good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 60 yds, 1:59
723
THIRD QUARTERATLCAR
atlFG10:59Matt Bryant 30 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 10 plays, 45 yds, 2:55
1023
atlTD9:03Jacquizz Rodgers 31 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 35 yds, 0:32
1723
FOURTH QUARTERATLCAR
atlTD12:49Julio Jones 17 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 90 yds, 4:24
2423
atlTD4:28Julio Jones 75 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 2 plays, 74 yds, 0:55
3123

Research Notes

From Elias: Cam Newton has lost 7 games this season when his team has led by at least a field goal in the second half. That ties Chris Weinke and Jack Thompson for the most losses when leading by a field goal or more in the second half through 13 games in NFL history.
Julio Jones now has 2 TD of 75+ yards this season. He is the 2nd Falcons player with 2 rec TD of 75+ yards in a single season. Michael Haynes also did it in 1991.
The Falcons rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit to win on the road. It's only the 2nd time in team history that they won a game in which they trailed by 16 or more points on the road at halftime. On November 9, 1980, they rallied from 18 down at the half to beat the Cardinals, 33-27 in overtime
Matt Ryan completed just 1-of-6 passes to Julio Jones in the first three quarters for 12 yards Sunday. Three passes were defended by Panthers cornerback Darius Butler in a two-minute span in the third quarter while two were overthrown and the other was dropped. Jones beat Butler on his only two targets in the fourth quarter for 92 yards and two touchdowns.
The Falcons faced a rookie quarterback for the 4th week in a row in Sunday's game against Cam Newton and the Panthers in Charlotte. Though those 4 rookie signal-caller threw 6 TD passes against only 2 INT (both by Newton Sunday), Atlanta has gone 3-1 over those 4 games. The Falcons will likely face an rookie QB once again in Week 15 in Blaine Gabbert when they host the Jaguars on Thursday.
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