The Falcons are still alive. In the battle of 5-7 teams in the NFC South, the Falcons bested the mistake-prone Panthers, 29-21, on Sunday in Charlotte. The Falcons kept pace with the Saints, who also won, for second place in the division behind the Buccaneers.

Here are the highlights on Sunday’s game:

Play of the game: With the Falcons trying to protect a 20-14 lead in the third quarter, the Panthers put together a drive that had them near midfield. Facing a second-and-3 at the Falcons’ 47-yard line, quarterback Cam Newton took a snap only to step on the foot of his center Pat Elfein. As he was falling to the ground, Newton tried to hand the ball off to Chuba Hubbard but fumbled instead. The Falcons’ Grady Jarrett smothered the loose ball for a turnover. The Falcons covered 49 yards on 10 plays following the turnover to take a 26-14 lead with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Hayden Hurst. The ensuing score following the turnover gave the Falcons a comfortable margin.

The turnover was one of three on the day for the Panthers, including two interceptions.

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Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst scores on a pass from Matt Ryan during the second half of Sunday's game against the Panthers in Charlotte.

Credit: AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst scores on a pass from Matt Ryan during the second half of Sunday's game against the Panthers in Charlotte.

Credit: AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

caption arrowCaption
Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst scores on a pass from Matt Ryan during the second half of Sunday's game against the Panthers in Charlotte.

Credit: AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Credit: AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Offensive game ball: Russell Gage. As the Falcons’ receiving corp. remains depleted, Gage became the top target of Ryan in a key drive. The wide receiver had four receptions for 64 yards, an average of 16 yards per completion. Ryan only threw for 190 yards, with 34% of them caught by Gage. Three of the catches, for 58 yards, came on the Falcons’ first-quarter touchdown drive that tied the score at 7-7 after the Panthers took an early lead.

Defensive game ball: Mykal Walker. The Falcons linebacker gave the Falcons their second pick-six in as many weeks. Walker picked off Newton in the second quarter and returned it 66 yards for a touchdown. The defensive score gave the Falcons a 14-7 lead in the second quarter. The score came one week after defensive lineman Marlon Davidson had a 3-yard pick six of Tom Brady in the loss to the Buccaneers. Honorable mention goes to Dante Fowler, who had a sack and three tackles for a loss.

Key stat: The Falcons held the Panthers to a total of 91 yards rushing. The Panthers wanted to run the ball, much the way they did when they rushed for 203 yards in a 19-13 win over the Falcons in October. Newton had 47 yards on 10 carries and Hubbard had 33 yards on 10 carries.

Biggest takeaway: The Falcons (6-7) improved to 6-2 away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. As they push for a playoff spot, the have road games at the 49ers and Bills and home games against the Lions and Saints. The two remaining road games figure to play a big part in their postseason chances.

They said it: “We were able to run the ball. I believe it was our third straight 100-yard rushing game. If we are going to be a physical team and you want to win in December, you are going to have to bring your run game with you.” – Falcons coach Arthur Smith

Next up: The Falcons head out west to play at the 49ers in a 4:05 p.m. start Sunday.