Rapid Reaction: Falcons 30, Panthers 28

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
4:33
PM ET

ATLANTA -- Thoughts on the Atlanta Falcons' 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers at the Georgia Dome on Sunday:

What it means: After a major scare, the Falcons are 4-0 and high atop the NFC South. They showed they can win on a day when they're not playing their best. Carolina played as well as it could have. But the Panthers fell to 1-3. They're in a hole, but they can take some positives from this game.

Never panic: The Falcons were up against the wall. Trailing 28-27, they took over at their own 1-yard line after a punt with 59 seconds left. Matt Ryan connected on a bomb to Roddy White and the Falcons got help from a pass interference penalty on Captain Munnerlyn. Ryan then worked the sidelines to move the ball to Carolina's 22-yard line with 10 seconds left. That's when the Falcons brought in the trusty Matt Bryant to kick the game-winning 40-yard field goal.

Cam Newton’s almost-spectacular homecoming: Newton, who grew up in the Atlanta area, bounced back in a big way after a disastrous performance 10 days ago in a loss to the New York Giants. Newton was pretty close to flawless, completing 15 of 24 passes for 215 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton also ran for a career-high 86 yards and had a touchdown on nine carries.

Michael Turner’s big day: After barely averaging 50 yards rushing in the first three games, there was a lot of talk that the Atlanta running back might be washed up. It turns out that was premature. Turner ran for 103 yards on 13 carries and also had a receiving touchdown. But I’m not completely convinced Turner is at the level he was a few years ago. I think Carolina’s defense played a pretty significant role in Turner’s success.

Stat of the day: The 60-yard scoring pass Turner caught in the third quarter was the first receiving touchdown of his career. He’s been in the league since 2004.

Stat of the day II: The pass Carolina receiver Armanti Edwards caught in the third quarter was the first reception of his NFL career. He’s been in the league since 2004.

Charles Johnson shows up: The highly paid Carolina defensive end didn’t have a sack and was mostly quiet in the first three games. But he exploded against Atlanta, producing 3.5 sacks and batting down a pass at the line of scrimmage.

What’s next: The Falcons travel to Washington to play the Redskins next Sunday. The Panthers are at home next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

Pat Yasinskas | email

ESPN Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter

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