Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Falcons end Panthers' perfect pursuit

Falcons linebacker Philip Wheeler tackles the Panthers’ Cam Newton on a quarterback keeper in the second half. Atlanta stopped Carolina’s 18-game regular-season winning streak.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution / TNS

Falcons linebacker Philip Wheeler tackles the Panthers’ Cam Newton on a quarterback keeper in the second half. Atlanta stopped Carolina’s 18-game regular-season winning streak.

ATLANTA — It had been 392 days since the Panthers last lost a regular-season game.

But cornerback Josh Norman hadn't forgotten what it felt like.

"Guys are not used to losing," Norman said in a quiet visitors locker room at the Georgia Dome. "It kind of (stinks), man."

The Panthers' run at perfection came to an end in the cavernous dome where they'd clinched the NFC South the past two seasons. But after a 20-13 loss on Sunday, there were no "division champs" hats being passed out or music blaring in the locker room — just a lot of downcast players trying to figure out where it went wrong.

And while the offense failed to muster another touchdown after its opening drive, the defense gave up 373 yards to a team it throttled in a 38-0 shutout on Dec. 13 in Charlotte.

"I think we were just purely outplayed," strong safety Roman Harper said. "And we couldn't come out there and win at the end. That's all we've done, is find ways to win all year, and we couldn't do that (Sunday)."

Panthers coach Ron Rivera won't have to answer questions about playing his starters next week against the Bucs. After Arizona beat Green Bay on Sunday, the Panthers need to win or have the Cardinals lose to Seattle next week to clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs.

The Falcons' big play was a killer: A 70-yard touchdown catch by Julio Jones that quarterback Matt Ryan kept alive by rolling out of the pocket and motioning for Jones to go deep.

Jones had two defenders around him. But free safety Kurt Coleman fell and Jones outleaped middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, who said he mistimed his jump. Jones' score gave the Falcons a 14-10 lead late in the third quarter, and the Panthers never led again.

Carolina, the fourth team ever to start 14-0, got the ball with 90 seconds left and no timeouts. Cam Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Corey Brown on first down but fumbled when stripped by defensive end Vic Beasley on the following play. Former Bucs defensive lineman Adrian Clayborn recovered for the Falcons, wrapping up the win.

"I viewed this game as a measuring stick for us," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "I wanted to see how our team would respond after the game up there."

Ryan threw for 306 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons. Former Florida State running back Devonta Freeman ran for 73 yards and a score.


Falcons end Panthers' perfect pursuit 12/27/15 [Last modified: Sunday, December 27, 2015 10:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Ronde Barber: Want intimidation? Look at past Bucs teams


    Ronde Barber says these days "it's hard to find throwbacks, where you go, 'That guy is a badass.' Where do you find that now? It's such a show-off sport." (Times 2012)
  2. Rays blow lead in ninth, lose in 10 to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays manager Kevin Cash liked the way Alex Cobb was competing Friday night. He liked the way the hard contact made by the Rangers batters went away after the second or third inning. So as the game headed toward the ninth, there was no doubt in Cash's mind that sending Cobb back to the mound was …

    Rays starter Alex Cobb can hardly believe what just happened as he leaves the game in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double then a tying two-run homer to the Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo.
  3. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. gets extra day off to let hip heal

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. ran in rightfield before batting practice under the watchful gaze of the Rays training staff and manager Kevin Cash. Afterward, Souza told Cash he could use one more day of rest before playing on the left hip he strained Wednesday in Oakland.

    Steven Souza Jr., hugging Mallex Smith after Smith’s solo home run in the eighth inning, feels relief after tests are negative on his injured hip.
  4. Rays vs. Rangers, 7:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Rangers

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: FS1; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)