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(Sunday, December 12th)
Final Score: Atlanta 31, Carolina 10
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - Michael Turner ran for three touchdowns and the Atlanta Falcons continued their quest for the top seed in the NFC with a 31-10 victory over the lowly Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
Turner finished with 112 yards on 28 carries.
Matt Ryan completed 20-of-34 passes for 227 yards with one touchdown in the win, Atlanta's seventh straight since losing at Philadelphia on October 17.
The Falcons (11-2) maintained a one-game lead over New Orleans in the NFC South. The Saints beat St. Louis, 31-13, on Sunday.
Atlanta could have secured the conference's first playoff spot if Dallas had beaten Philadelphia on Sunday, but the Eagles beat the Cowboys, 30-27. The Falcons can still clinch a spot in the postseason if the Vikings beat the Giants in Detroit on Monday.
"I felt we played pretty well in the first half," Falcons head coach Mike Smith said. "We were able to create some scores of turnovers and shorten the field for the offense, which was big."
Jonathan Stewart carried the ball 18 times for 133 yards and Mike Goodson added 70 yards on the ground for the Panthers (1-12).
Carolina rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen connected on 14-of-24 tosses for 107 yards.
"It's been a sore spot all season," Panthers head coach John Fox said of the passing game. "We're a work in progress, to put it mildly."
Stewart lost a fumble on the game's first offensive snap. Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson recovered the ball at the Carolina 29, and the Falcons converted the turnover into a four-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to Tony Gonzalez.
The score was the 87th of the veteran tight end's career, tying him with Andre Reed for 11th on the NFL's all-time touchdown receiving list.
Harry Douglas then hauled in a 46-yard pass along the left sideline to set up Turner's one-yard touchdown run that extended the Falcons' lead to 14-0 with 6:51 remaining in the first quarter.
Trailing 17-0 after Matt Bryant made a 39-yard field goal in the second frame, Carolina, which totaled only 33 yards and two first downs through the first half, reached the end zone on its opening possession of the third quarter. Goodson capped the five-play, 81-yard drive with a 13-yard dash.
Atlanta's lead grew to 24-7 when Turner punched it in from three yards out with less than five minutes to play in the third.
John Kasay kicked a 36-yard field goal for Carolina early in the fourth quarter before Turner finished the scoring with a four-yard run.
Falcons wide receiver Roddy White caught eight passes for 79 yards...Turner has 10 rushing touchdowns in the past seven games...Carolina has lost seven games in a row.
12/13 00:10:07 ET