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Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons 12/29/13 NFL Score, Recap, News and Notes

Final Score: Carolina Panthers 21, Atlanta Falcons 20

December 29, 2013

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At the beginning of the season, this game looked a lot more enticing. The Panthers and Falcons started the year as two of the NFC favorites, but Atlanta quickly faded from contention. That left Carolina, who came into this Week 17 matchup able to clinch the division and improve their playoff standing even further. The Falcons weren’t going to go quietly, however, especially in their own stadium.
Let’s take a look at some of the key players and statistical trends from the game so that we can figure out exactly why things played out the way they did. Afterward, we’ll look into each team’s future (next week for the Panthers and next year for the Falcons) to see what’s in store.

What Happened: With this being (probably) Tony Gonzalez’s last game, the Falcons were intent on doing everything in their power to grab a victory. Things started off very well, with Atlanta scoring the only points of the first quarter--a 9-yard TD pass from Matt Ryan to Jason Snelling. They’d add a 42-yard field goal early in the second to take a 10-point lead. A short time later, Carolina’s storied defense made their presence known with a huge pick-6 from Melvin White for their first points of the day. The Panthers offense finally found some traction later in the quarter with a 3-yard TD pass from Cam Newton to Ted Ginn. At the break, Carolina led 14-10.
After halftime, Atlanta scored on a bomb over the middle--39 yards from Ryan to Roddy White. The Panthers would reclaim the lead later in the quarter, posting another TD pass from Newton to Greg Olsen.
The Falcons managed a 37-yard field goal in the fourth, but that’s all they could muster. Their final drive stalled out after a botched shotgun snap that buried their chances of stealing a win. Carolina took the game 21-20.
With the victory, the Panthers clinch the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs on the strength of a 12-4 overall record. At 4-12, the Falcons will try to get healthy in the off-season and take solace in the fact that they’ll have a high-end pick in the draft.

Carolina Panthers at Atlanta Falcons 12/29/13 NFL Score, Recap, News and Notes

Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The Stars: Cam Newton’s multi-dimensional attack was working pretty well for most of the day. He used his legs to get his offense out of some sticky situations in the face of an aggressive Falcons front, racking up team highs in carries (12) and rush yards (72). He passed for 149, two touchdowns and an interception that was more bad luck than anything.
DeAngelo Williams didn’t score, but he contributed 108 total yards on 12 touches.
On the other side, Roddy White continued his late-season resurgence (now that he’s healthy) with 91 yards and a score on eight receptions.

The Goats: There was no real dog here, but each team certainly could have been better in several areas. If you take out Newton’s rush yardage, Carolina posted just 62 yards on 17 carries. There were some spots that looked like breakdowns in protection, but it’s safe to say that Atlanta was throwing everything they could at the Panthers’ front line.
Likewise, Atlanta isn’t blameless themselves. With a different outcome from a couple of miscues on offense (the pick-6 and botched shotgun snap) they could have came out with a shocking win here.

Injuries: The Falcons came out pretty clean here, but were without Jacquizz Rodgers (concussion) and Sean Weatherspoon (knee).
As for Carolina, they were missing Colin Cole (calf), Steve Smith (knee) and Jonathan Stewart (knee).

Outlook: Both teams will be doing some scoreboard-watching today. The Falcons will be getting a pretty high pick at this year’s draft (they were in the No. 7 slot coming  into today), but there’s still a bit of jostling to be done among the bottom teams.
As for the Panthers, they’ll have a first-round bye in the playoffs and get the luxury of sitting back and watching the afternoon games to see who they might be playing.

For the latest article updates, follow Andrew on Twitter @SCPAndrew.

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