Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons dropped their first NFC South divisional game, losing 20-17 against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

The Atlanta Falcons jumped out to a 10-0 first quarter lead with 3:30 remaining in the first quarter. Quarterback Matt Ryan found Mohamed Sanu on a six yard touchdown strike. It appeared the Falcons were off and running.

However, the momentum shifted late in the second quarter. While the Falcons were driving, kicker Matt Bryant learned he strained his calf, therefore making longer field goals proved difficult. That forced Atlanta to go for it on 4th and one on the Panthers’ 35 yard line. Running back Devonta Freeman was not able to get the first down. Plus, tight end Austin Hooper was penalized for an illegal crackback block on the play. Since the Falcons didn’t get the first down, Carolina got the ball and the fifteen yard penalty was added when the Panthers gained possession.

Panthers Quarterback Cam Newton immediately marched his offense down the field and rookie running back Christian McCaffrey scored a four yard touchdown, making it 10-7.

On the ensuing drive, Ryan was looking for Hooper over the middle and his pass was intercepted by Mike Adams. The Panthers quickly capitalized on the Falcons latest mistake.

52 seconds later, Newton scrambled to his right and leaped into the endzone, scoring a touchdown that gave the Panthers a 14-10 lead.

While the Falcons were attempting their comeback, Matt Ryan found wide receiver Julio Jones streaking open in the endzone and the all-pro receiver uncharacteristically dropped a touchdown pass.

“Forget it man, let’s get to the next one, that’s it.,” Ryan said when asked about the dropped touchdown pass. “100 out of 100 times he is going to make plays. He has made more plays in this league than probably anybody. Sometimes it happens, I’m not worried one bit about it. We had other opportunities too.”

Those opportunities presented themselves in short yardage situations. The Falcons had nine plays on 2nd/3rd/4th down with two or less yards to go and gained a total of one yard in nine plays.

“I mean we felt like we had good plays called and had good run opportunities to get the first down,” Ryan said. “We have to execute as players, better than we did. We have to be able to move the chains with three opportunities from two yards or less, regardless of what we are calling, run or pass. That part was disappointing as players.”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton dives over Deion Jones (45) and Desmond Trufant (21) to score a touchdown in the 2nd Quarter of his game against the Atlanta Falcons. Photo by: Associated Press

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