What it means: Maybe players from other teams and media members have been right when they’ve said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record suggests. The Falcons played perhaps their worst game of the season. Carolina’s offense controlled the ball throughout the first half, and Atlanta’s offense didn’t do much of anything until the second half. The Falcons now are 11-2, and they sure didn’t look like a team that’s capable of doing much of anything in the postseason. The win was significant for Carolina, a team that had squandered leads multiple times this season. But the Panthers (4-9) hung on this time. This win also might have helped coach Ron Rivera’s chances of keeping his job. Owner Jerry Richardson has told Rivera he needs to finish on an upswing to keep it. A solid victory against a division rival has to score Rivera some points.
Play of the day: If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you catch the replay of Cam Newton's 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It reminds you Newton is one of the best athletes on the planet. The touchdown also gave Carolina a 23-0 lead, the kind of lead that even the Panthers couldn’t squander.
Play of the day II: Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who is one of the league’s great comeback stories, came up with a huge interception to help seal the victory. On a fourth-and-8 at Carolina’s 48-yard line, Atlanta tried to keep a drive alive. But Davis stepped in and intercepted a Matt Ryan pass that was intended for Roddy White.
Lucky day: The Panthers had lost every coin toss this season (12 at the start of games and one in overtime) coming into the day. But that streak finally came to an end Sunday.
What’s next: The Falcons host the New York Giants next Sunday. The Panthers play at San Diego next Sunday.