Atlanta 33, Carolina 16
When: 1:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 24, 2016
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, North Carolina
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Atlanta Falcons are finding rewards for a strong season coming all at once.
With a chance to be NFC South Division champions, they didn't miss a beat in a 33-16 thrashing of the Carolina Panthers on Saturday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.
"We wanted to the division," safety Keanu Neal said. "As long as you own the division, you control your own destiny."
Matt Ryan threw two touchdown passes and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals on a day in which Atlanta claimed the NFC South crown.
The Falcons did so by dismantling the three-time reigning divisional champions on their home field.
"We had a long, long run," Carolina quarterback Cam Newton said.
Tampa Bay's loss at New Orleans later in the day gave the Falcons (10-5) the crown.
"We're in a good position," Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley said. "We plan to finish strong. Keep moving forward."
Ryan's first scoring pass set a franchise single-season record at 33 touchdown strikes and sent the Falcons on their way to their third consecutive victory and fourth win in the last five games.
Ryan completed 27 of 33 passes for 277 yards without an interception.
"It's all coming together," Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman said. "We're playing for each other. Guys are breaking records."
A two-game winning streak ended for Carolina (6-9). Quarterback Cam Newton was 18-for-43 for 198 and one touchdown pass. He threw two first-half interceptions.
"Just all in all we couldn't get in a rhythm," Newton said.
After being the only team to defeat the Panthers in the 2015 regular season, the Falcons swept the season series this time.
Carolina was 10-0 last season at home, including two playoff victories, but went only 4-4 in Charlotte this season.
"When you come up short like this, it's just a bad feeling, a really bad feeling," Panthers defensive end Mario Addison said. "They came out and brought their best and we fell short."
NFL receiving leader Julio Jones returned for the Falcons after missing the past two games with a toe injury. He made a five-yard catch on the game's first snap and finished with four receptions for 60 yards.
The Panthers scored on the final play of the third quarter on Newton's 26-yard touchdown connection with Kelvin Benjamin, closing the gap to 23-13. That marked only Newton's 11th completion in 29 attempts.
It appeared Atlanta was wobbling, but a third-and-21 pickup (for 31 yards) moved the Falcons out of danger. Running back Tevin Coleman rushed 55 yards on the next play for a touchdown.
So it was a four-play, 75-yard response as the Falcons, who are the league's highest-scoring team, reached the 30-point mark for the 10th time this season.
Atlanta began its production from the get-go.
Ryan connected on a 26-yard touchdown pass to tight end Joshua Perkins to cap the game's first drive. Perkins made the catch at the goal line between a pair of Carolina defenders.
Following Brian Poole's interception of Newton, the Falcons made it 10-0 less than nine minutes into the game on Matt Bryant's 51-yard field goal.
Atlanta's next possession resulted in Bryant's 48-yarder for a 13-0 edge with 35 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Ryan scrambled and threw 1 yard to tight end D.J. Tialavea, who was signed to the active roster for his first NFL game, as the Falcons claimed a 20-3 advantage.
Bryant missed a 30-yard attempt with 13 seconds to play in the first half when his kick was deflected by Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler.
Bryant's last field goal was a 50-yarder with 1:55 left.
NOTES: The Falcons have won three consecutive meetings with Carolina, leading the all-time series 27-17. ... Carolina TE Greg Olsen's first catch went for 17 yards in the second quarter, making him the first NFL tight end to produce three consecutive seasons of 1,000 or more receiving yards. He played despite missing practices during the week with an elbow injury. ... Panthers LB Luke Kuechly, who was a Pro Bowl selection earlier in the week, missed his fifth game in a row. He suffered a concussion Nov. 17 and, despite cleared to play the past two games, remains out of uniform. ... The Falcons wrap up the regular season next week at home against New Orleans. ... Carolina finishes the season next week at Tampa Bay.
Top Game Performances
Team Stats Summary
Carolina will play their next game on the road against Tampa Bay. The Panthers have a W/L % of .286 after a win and .500 after a loss.
Atlanta will play their next game at home against New Orleans. The Falcons have a W/L % of .600 after a win and .800 after a loss.