Panthers 21, Falcons 20: Cam Newton passed for two touchdowns and rushed for 72 yards as visiting Carolina locked up the NFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The Panthers (12-4) racked up a franchise-record nine sacks and Melvin White returned an interception for a touchdown as Carolina dug out of an early 10-0 hole. Newton was 15-of-27 for 149 yards with TD passes to Greg Olsen and Ted Ginn Jr.
Matt Ryan finished 28-of-40 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for the Falcons (4-12). Roddy White caught eight passes for 91 yards and a score while Jason Snelling also had a TD reception.
Ryan's 9-yard touchdown pass to Snelling and Matt Bryant's 42-yard field goal gave the Falcons an early lead, but White jumped a route in the left flat and stumbled eight yards for a score to get Carolina on the board. Newton then led the Panthers 96 yards just before halftime, hitting Ginn for a 3-yard TD and a 14-0 halftime lead.
Atlanta went back in front on Ryan's 39-yard scoring strike over the top to White, but the Panthers answered with a 76-yard drive capped by Newton's 7-yard touchdown toss to Olsen for a 21-17 advantage. The Falcons had to settle for another field goal by Bryant on their next trip inside the red zone, and their last two series went nowhere.
GAME NOTEBOOK: The Panthers would have earned the NFC's No. 1 seed had Seattle lost to St. Louis. ... DE Greg Hardy recorded four of Carolina's nine sacks, setting the single-game franchise record and tying Kevin Greene's single-season team mark of 15. … Olsen's 73 catches are the most in a season by a Panthers tight end, breaking his own record of 69 last season. … The Falcons honored retiring TE Tony Gonzalez at halftime. Gonzalez finished with four catches for 56 yards.