Panthers spank Falcons to claim NFC South title

A brief look at the Panthers’ 34-3 victory over the Falcons.

How the game was won: The Panthers opened a 10-0 lead as kicker Graham Gano booted a 21-yard field goal to cap a 12-play, 77-yard opening drive that took 7:10 off the clock. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton kept the drive alive by escaping from Falcons defensive tackle Tyson Jackson on a second-and-10. It would have been third-and-long if the Falcons could have sacked Newton. The Falcon’s opening drive stalled. Matt Bosher’s punt was fair caught at the 13. The Panthers stayed on the ground and caught he Falcons over-pursing. Wide receiver Philly Brown took a flip from Newton and rushed behind a convoy of blockers for 28 yards. Five plays later, Newton tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ed Dickson. Falcons kickoff returner Devin Hester ignited the crowd when he broke loose for a 66-yard gain on the ensuing kickoff. Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ offense was in business with a short-field from Carolina’s 38, but couldn’t punch it in for a touchdown. After an exchange of punts, Ryan was intercepted by Roman Harper and then Roddy White had a fumble that was recovered by Thomas Davis. The Panthers converted both turnovers into touchdowns to start the rout.

Notable: The Panthers claimed the NFC South title and will host a playoff game. The Panthers became the first team to win back-to-back titles since the division was founded in 2002…As expected, Falcons starting running back Steven Jackson was declared inactive. Jackson did not practiced last week with a quadriceps injury. Jacquizz Rodgers started in place of Jackson… .The Falcons other inactives were: quarterback Sean Renfree, safety Charles Godfrey, cornerback Ricardo Allen, linebacker Tyler Starr, tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive Stansly Maponga.

Number: 8 — Depending on the late results, the Falcons could draft as high as eight in the 2015 NFL draft. They will finish behind Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, New York Jets and Washington Redskins. The Falcons, Giants and Rams could all finish at 6-10.

Next season: Home games – Carolina, New Orleans Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Washington, Houston, Indianapolis, Green Bay or Detroit. Away – Carolina, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Dallas, New York Giants, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Seattle or Arizona.

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