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Falcons vs. Panthers Recap: Atlanta sits atop division with 19-17 win over Carolina

The Atlanta Falcons are first in a dreadful NFC South after pulling out a road win over the Carolina Panthers.

Scott Cunningham

Somehow, some way, the 4-6 Atlanta Falcons are leading the NFC South.

With a 19-17 win over the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints losing 27-10 to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons are sitting atop the division.

The win also gave Atlanta back-to-back wins on the road - a feat that looked to be unattainable with the recent woes in away games.

And all the Falcons needed was a block from Ra'Shede Hageman on a last-second 63-yard field goal attempt.

For a large part of the game, the game was a defensive struggle - or, depending on the perspective, a display of offensive ineptitude - as it wasn't until the third quarter that a team was able to find the end zone.

That score was a two-yard reception by Roddy White that gave the Falcons a 16-3 lead with over six minutes remaining in the third.

If the offensive performance from both teams prior to the Falcons taking a two-score lead was any indicator, then it looked like the Falcons would cruise to victory.

But out of nowhere, Carolina's offense found life.

Atlanta had an opportunity to really put the game out of reach. The team appeared to be moving after forcing a three-and-out following the touchdown by White, but a fumble by Devin Hester brought the drive to a screeching halt.

A couple of drives later, the Panthers finally found the end zone on a 22-yard deep shot to Kelvin Benjamin, who finished the game with nine receptions for 109 yards. The drive went 71 yards on five plays and took just under two minutes.

After another failed drive from Atlanta, the Panthers struck again. This time, it took just two plays as Cam Newton found Philly Brown 47 yards down the field for the score.

And just like that, the Panthers looked to be in control with a 17-16 lead and lots of momentum.

Aside from a couple of drives, the Falcons weren't able to move the ball much. But Matt Ryan was able to orchestrate a 12-play, 54-yard drive - capped off with a 44-yard field goal from Matt Bryant - to put the Falcons ahead with a little over two minutes left in the game.

Newton was able to get the Panthers in field goal range with 1:26 left, but Graham Gano's first attempt from 46 yards out was wide left.

Next Sunday, the Falcons are back at the Georgia Dome and look to get their first win from outside the division as they host the surprising 6-4 Cleveland Browns.


White needed just 73 receiving yards to reach the 10,000-yard career milestone. He surpassed that mark as he finished the game with 75 yards.

Each of the Falcons' wins have come within the division: a series sweep over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wins over both the Panthers and Saints.

Screens don't appear to be working for the Falcons, but they're continually getting called - especially on third downs. There has to be a nice medium there somewhere. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter needs to find it.