When the Carolina Panthers looked at their schedule, they likely felt they’d have a pretty easy job securing at minimum the second seed in the NFC considering their opponent. But the Atlanta Falcons weren’t laying down for anybody as evidenced by their strong play on Sunday afternoon.
Things got started with Atlanta taking an early 7-0 thanks to a touchdown catch by running back, Jason Snelling. Leaking into the end zone, Snelling was crushed as the Matt Ryan pass lead him into multiple defenders, but the backup halfback held on giving the Falcons a lead they’d extend in the second quarter.
A touchdown pass from Newton to Ted Ginn Jr. with just seconds left in the first half preceded a Matt Ryan interception which the Panthers returned for a touchdown, giving Carolina a 14-10 lead heading into the third quarter.
Both Atlanta and Carolina exchanged touchdowns in the third quarter which gave the Panthers a four point lead heading into the final quarter of action.
Another field goal from Bryant cut the Panthers lead down to one – though securing a late first down would have all but ended the game for Carolina. They couldn’t do it, giving Atlanta the ball back with an opportunity to spoil the Panthers bid for the number two seed (or number one).
Atlanta fell short however, dropping their record to 4-12 with the 21-20 loss while Carolina continued to march on, improving to 12-4 en route to a first round bye.
The game also featured what is likely to be the final career contest for eventual Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez who picked up four catches for 56 yards. Assuming it’s the end, one of the greatest tight end’s in NFL history, Gonzo will finish with 1,325 receptions, over 15,100 yards and 111 touchdowns.