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Falcons end Panthers' undefeated season

The Falcons snapped the Panthers' 14-0 undefeated streak, beating them on Sunday and keeping themselves alive in the playoff race.

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Falcons shocked the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, holding off a late comeback to win, 20-13. The win snapped Carolina's 14-0 undefeated streak and, more importantly, kept them alive in the NFC playoff race.

The Falcons could have put it away sooner, but two penalties with just under two minutes remaining left enough time on the clock for the Panthers to get the ball one more time. On first down, Falcons rookie Vic Beasley sacked Cam Newton and forced a fumble that Adrian Clayborn recovered for Atlanta, wrapping up the win.

Atlanta has just one way into the postseason, and it requires another win in Week 17 and losses by both the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks for the next two games. Seattle plays in the afternoon, while the Vikings will host the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football.

The Panthers could not get anything going on offense. Cam Newton threw for just 142 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. He did rush for 46 yards and a touchdown, and the Panthers put up 155 yards on the ground, but the Falcons held their own on both sides of the ball.

Atlanta rushed for under 100 yards as a team, but quarterback Matt Ryan was excellent, throwing for over 300 yards and a touchdown. Julio Jones caught nine passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, while Roddy White added another five catches for 67 yards.

The Panthers got on the board first early in the game, when Newton ran in an 8-yard touchdown. It didn't take long for the Falcons to tie it up as Devonta Freeman took in a 4-yard rush right as the second quarter got underway. The game got really interesting in the second half, as the Panthers tacked on a 33-yard field goal to take the lead, but the Falcons followed it up by putting up the longest passing play of their season.

That's wide receiver Julio Jones making a ridiculous catch over Luke Kuechly, one of the top linebackers in the league, and taking it all the way in for a 70-yard touchdown. That score gave the Falcons a 14-10 lead as the third quarter neared its end.

The Panthers caught a break shortly after that when the Falcons fumbled in Carolina territory, and the Panthers managed to convert the ensuing possession into a field goal, making it a one-point game. But the Falcons held on tight for the remainder of the fourth and got the win.

Atlanta will play the New Orleans Saints in Week 17, but it's yet unknown if they'll still be alive in the playoff race by the time that game comes around. If the Seahawks or Vikings win on Sunday, then Atlanta is eliminated from the playoffs. For now, there is still hope. The Panthers can still clinch the top seed in the NFC if the Arizona Cardinals lose on Sunday.