First place. No problem.
The Falcons held on for a dramatic 19-17 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
The Falcons’ victory, coupled with the Saints’ loss to the Bengals, left them tied for first place at 4-6 atop the NFC South.
Kicker Matt Bryant was the star for the Falcons as he made field goals of 34,42, 29 and 44 yards and quarterback Matt Ryan added a 2-yard touchdown pass to Roddy White, who went over 10,000 yards receiver over his career.
The Falcons were not safe until Carolina’s Graham Gano pushed a 46-yard attempt wide left with 1:26 to play and missed a 63-yard field goal attempt with a second to play. The long attempt was blocked rookie defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman.
The Falcons blew a double-digit lead for the third time this season. They took a 16-3 lead into the fourth quarter before the secondary, gave up touchdown passes of 22 and 47 yards. The Panthers took the lead 17-16, but Ryan drove the Falcons down into field goal range for Bryant’s 44-yarder.
The Falcons blew a 21-0 lead against Detroit and 20-10 lead against the New York Giants earlier this season. They also had a 28-27 lead against Minnesota before losing 41-28.
The Falcons held the Panthers to 43 yards of offense and didn’t allow a third-down conversion on four Carolina attempts in the third quarter.
The proceedings turned rowdy with 2:42 left in the third quarter after Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester tried to knock Carolina defensive back Josh Norman off of Harry Douglas. Fights broke all over the field, but when order was restored, Hester was the only player penalized.
The Falcons improved to 4-6. The Panthers, who head into their bye week, drop to 3-7-1. The Saints are 4-6. Tampa Bay is 2-8.