Panthers claim NFC South crown with win over Falcons

Updated: December 29, 2013

Atlanta, GA ( – Cam Newton tossed two touchdown passes and
the Panthers’ potent defense made life miserable for Atlanta’s Matt Ryan, as
Carolina claimed the NFC South crown with a 21-20 win over the Falcons on
Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

Newton completed 15-of-27 passes for 149 yards with an interception and added
72 rushing yards on 12 carries for Carolina (12-4), which secured a first-
round bye in the playoffs with its 11th win in the last 12 games.

The defense, meanwhile, sacked Ryan nine times, including a Carolina single-
game record four from end Greg Hardy, while also receiving an 8-yard
interception return TD from rookie cornerback Melvin White en route to the
team’s first division title since 2008.

Carolina can also secure home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with
a Seattle loss and a San Francisco win. The Seahawks host St. Louis, while the
49ers visit Arizona on Sunday.

With their postseason hopes long gone, the Falcons (4-12) were looking to play
spoiler while also trying to send Tony Gonzalez out on a high note, with the
legendary tight end expected to retire at season’s end.

Gonzalez finished with four catches for 56 yards and, if it truly is over,
the 13-time Pro Bowler will finish his career with a number of NFL records at
the tight end position, including most career receiving yards, most career
receptions and most touchdown catches.