Panthers 34, Falcons 3: Cam Newton passed for one touchdown and ran for another and Matt Ryan had two interceptions returned for touchdowns as visiting Carolina pummeled Atlanta to become the first team to win back-to-back NFC South titles.
Newton went 10-of-16 for 114 yards with no interceptions and added a team-high 51 yards rushing on six carries for the Panthers (7-8-1), who won their final four regular-season games and will host Arizona in the wild-card round. Roman Harper and Tre Boston returned interceptions for scores as Carolina won for the 12th time in its last 13 games in December.
Ryan finished 29-of-47 for 260 yards with no touchdowns and the two interceptions and was sacked six times. Roddy White had eight receptions for 104 yards for the Falcons (6-10) but also had a fumble that led to a Carolina touchdown.
The Panthers went up 10-0 on Newton’s 5-yard TD pass to Ed Dickson, and Atlanta missed a chance to cut the deficit to three early in the second quarter when Patrick DiMarco dropped a sure touchdown pass and the Falcons settled for a 21-yard Matt Bryant field goal. Atlanta’s next two possessions ended in costly turnovers, as Harper picked off an overthrown pass from Ryan and returned it 31 yards for a score and Newton added a 4-yard TD run one play after White’s fumble, giving the Panthers a 24-3 halftime lead.
Ryan had another pick-six erased on an illegal contact penalty, but he was intercepted six plays later by Boston, who went 84 yards for a touchdown to give the Panthers two defensive scores in a game for the first time in history. The Falcons managed only 288 total yards including 63 rushing yards on 16 attempts.
GAME NOTEBOOK: Newton (539) joined Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with four seasons with at least 500 rushing yards. … Panthers TE Greg Olsen (1,008) and WR Kelvin Benjamin (1,008) both went over 1,000 yards receiving, joining Muhsin Muhammad and Patrick Jeffers in 1999 as the only Carolina duos to do so in the same season. … Ryan had four interceptions returned for touchdowns this season, tied with Blake Bortles and Austin Davis for the most in the league.