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Revisiting the top Week 16 Falcons-Panthers matchups

Too easy.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons secured a playoff spot and the NFC South division crown with a 33-16 win (and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers falling to the New Orleans Saints) over the Carolina Panthers.

Let’s revisit the game’s top three matchups.

Cam Newton’s legs versus the Atlanta run defense

Newton rushed eight times — tied for the third-most he’s had in a single game this season — for 36 yards against the Falcons. Perhaps he should’ve run more, however. He was woefully ineffective through the air, completing just 18 of 43 passes (a 41.9 completion percentage) for 198 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Jonathan Stewart versus the Atlanta run defense

After posting more than 20 rushing attempts in Weeks 14 and 15, Stewart managed just 11 against Atlanta. He finished with 50 yards on the ground — a solid 4.5 yards per carry average. However, 20 of those yards came on one rush. Stewart being phased out as the game went on had a lot to do with the Falcons jumping on top immediately, resulting in Newton being forced to pass a lot more.

Julio Jones versus young Panthers cornerbacks

Jones returned to the lineup after sitting down the previous two games. Last time he faced the Panthers, he torched them for 300 receiving yards. Things were a bit different this time around, as he had four passes for 60 yards. That’s not an indictment on Jones, but rather a testament to Matt Ryan’s ability to spread the ball around as 10 different players caught a pass.