NFL Game Summary - Carolina at Atlanta
(Sunday, January 2nd)
Final Score: Atlanta 31, Carolina 10
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Matt Ryan threw a pair of touchdown passes, as
the Atlanta Falcons won the NFC South and clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC
with a 31-10 rout of the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome.
Ryan completed 22-of-32 passes for 236 yards for the Falcons (13-3), who
bounced back from a loss to the Saints last week to claim their first NFC
South title since 2004. Ryan improved to 20-2 at home as a starter.
Michael Turner rushed for 67 yards and a score on 17 carries for Atlanta,
which recorded its best record since the 1998 season (14-2). The franchise
made its only Super Bowl appearance to date that season, a loss to the Denver
Roddy White hauled in six passes for 62 yards and a touchdown and Tony
Gonzalez caught six passes for 53 yards and a score for the Falcons, who went
7-1 at home this season.
"It was a fun day for the Falcons and the Atlanta Falcon fans," Atlanta head
coach Mike Smith said. "I want to say first and foremost that I am really
excited for our football team, for Mr. Blank, for general manager Thomas
Dimitroff, for president Rich McKay and for all the fans here in Atlanta. To
go through the 17 weeks and be the Division champs here in the south and to
have a home game in the playoffs is going to be very beneficial for us."
Jimmy Clausen connected on 19-of-33 passes for 182 yards, a touchdown and an
interception for the Panthers (2-14), who played their last game under head
coach John Fox. Carolina announced on Friday that the contracts of Fox and his
staff will not be renewed.
Over his nine-year tenure with the Panthers, Fox led the Panthers to two NFC
Championship games and one Super Bowl. He compiled a 73-71 regular season
record during his stay in Carolina.
The Panthers have secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
"It's been a heck of a run," Fox said. "I could use another word but chances
are this might be on camera. It's been a great run, great memories, I know I
didn't finish like anybody wanted but if you had told me in 2002 it would have
been a nine-year run I would have taken it and run. I've always taken it one
day at a time in this business. You're never promised tomorrow."
The Falcons took control from the start, as their first possession lasted 10
plays and covered 77 yards. On the second play, Ryan threw a 17-yard pass to
Michael Jenkins. A 16-yard run by Turner and a 15-yard catch by Jason Snelling
put the ball in the red zone. A few plays later, Ryan rolled to his left and
hit Gonzalez in the end zone for a six-yard score.
Atlanta was marching down the field on its next possession, but Turner fumbled
the football. C.J. Wilson fell on the football at the three-yard line for
The Panthers were forced to punt after doing nothing on offense. Eric Weems
made the visitors pay with a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown.
A lack-luster Carolina offense gave the Falcons plenty of chances to add to
their lead. Early in the second quarter, Atlanta decided to go for it on 4th-
and-3 from the four-yard line. Ryan's pass to White was incomplete.
The Panthers failed to capitalize, however, as Mike Goodson fumbled at the
Atlanta 25-yard line. The Falcons faced a 4th-and-1 from the Carolina 26 this
time around, but Ryan's sneak came up short.
Carolina went for it on 4th-and-2 from the Atlanta 45, but Clausen was sacked
for a loss of 15 yards. Faced with a 3rd-and-10, White caught a 14-yard pass
along the left sideline. Gonzalez made a nice 12-yard catch along the right
sideline on the next play. White caught a 14-yard pass near the right pylon to
make it 21-0 at the half.
The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and used a 60-yard end-
around run by Brandon LaFell to get into Atlanta territory. John Kasay put
Carolina on the board with a 23-yard field goal.
The visitors tried to trick the Falcons with an onside kick, but Erik Coleman
recovered for Atlanta at the 45. Matt Bryant kicked a 47-yard field goal to
make it a 24-3 game with 9:46 left.
Dunta Robinson then picked off Clausen near midfield. The Falcons used the
ground game to run time off the clock. Back-to-back defensive penalties put
the ball at the one, and Turner rumbled into the end zone for a 31-3 margin
with two minutes remaining.
With the game well in hand, Chris Redman took over at quarterback for Atlanta
in the fourth quarter.
Jeff King caught a two-yard TD pass with 23 seconds remaining to account for
the final margin.
Atlanta leads the all-time set with Carolina, 20-12. The Falcons pulled off a
season sweep of the Panthers for the first time since the 2004
campaign...Weems' punt return for a touchdown was the first of his
career...White broke his own single-season club receiving yardage record (was
1,382). He ended with 1,389 yards this year...Carolina wide receiver Steve
Smith (calf) missed the game...Redman completed 4-of-6 passes for 20
yards...LaFell caught four passes for 63 yards.
01/02 18:35:41 ET
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