Panthers 28

(1-3, 0-2 away)

Falcons 30

(4-0, 2-0 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, September 30, 2012

Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA 

1 2 3 4 T
CAR 7 7 7 728
ATL 7 10 7 630

Top Performers

Passing: M. Ryan (ATL) - 369 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: M. Turner (ATL) - 13 CAR, 103 YDS

Receiving: R. White (ATL) - 8 REC, 169 YDS, 2 TD

Falcons rally for game-winning FG against Panthers, improve to 4-0

Associated Press

ATLANTA -- Matt Ryan took an awful beating.

Another win for the Atlanta Falcons will make the pain a lot easier to take.

Shaking off a career-high seven sacks, Ryan completed a 59-yard pass to Roddy White with about a minute remaining, setting up Matt Bryant's 40-yard field goal that kept the Falcons perfect on the season with a wild 30-28 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

After squandering a 24-14 lead in the second half, the Falcons (4-0) needed a crucial fumble by Cam Newton to even have a chance -- and they still faced long odds when the Panthers downed a punt at the Atlanta 1 with 1:09 remaining.

Ryan had no timeouts and surely some doubt about how much time his beleaguered offensive line would give him. But he dropped back about as far as he could, threw it about as far as he could, and relied on White to go up and make the catch.

He did, between two defenders.

Bryant's kick won it with 5 seconds remaining.

"We made the plays when we needed to," said Ryan, who passed for 369 yards and three touchdowns. "That's what you need to do week to week in this league."

The Falcons (4-0) are off to their best start since 2004, when they reached the NFC championship game.

This was their stiffest challenge yet.

"That was exciting. Whew!" said coach Mike Smith, finally able to exhale. "Every time it looked bleak, every time it looked like we didn't have a chance, we were able to overcome it."

Newton threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score. But he let the ball slip away when it looked as though he had clinched the victory for the Panthers (1-3).

"You have to protect the football," Newton said. "That was a key focus going into this game, and I fumbled. There's a lot of guys that are trusting the ball carrier, and I was the ball carrier that particular play to get the job done. And I dropped the ball."

On third-and-2 at the Atlanta 46, Newton took the snap and bulled his way over the left side, his body surging across the spot needed for the first down. On the sideline, several of the Panthers broke into a celebration.

But John Abraham knocked it loose, the ball squirting backward. Fullback Mike Tolbert covered it for Carolina at the 45 -- 1 yard shy of a first down. After attempting unsuccessfully to draw the Falcons offside, the Panthers punted it away.

Ryan and White took advantage of another chance.

"I threw it high and far to the spot we talk about," Ryan said. "Roddy went up and made a great catch. When you're in that situation late in the game, that's what you have to do."

White was sandwiched between cornerback Josh Norman and safety Haruki Nakamura, but managed to leap over both of them to bring down the pass at the Carolina 40. A pass interference call and two short completions made things easier for Bryant, who had already connected from 41 and 33 yards to improve to 8 for 8 on the season.

Make it 9 for 9.

The kick was straight down the middle.

With Julio Jones hindered by an injured right hand, White came up with a huge game for the Falcons. He had eight catches for 169 yards, including a pair of touchdowns. But his biggest catch was the final one.

"Matt told me he was going to throw it up there. Just make a play," White said. "Not for one second did we think we were going to lose the game."

Ryan credited his offensive line on the final drive, even though they struggled most of the day to keep him upright against Charles Johnson and the rest of the Panthers defense.

Johnson spent so much time in the backfield he should've worn an Atlanta jersey, finishing with 3 1/2 sacks. Ryan was hit nine times after throwing and hurried on eight other attempts.

"The offensive line did a great job," Ryan said, all evidence to the contrary. "If you're going to throw the football that far down the field, you need some time. The guys did a great job of pass protection, giving us time to throw it down there."

Newton's fumble ruined what had been a stellar performance. He threw for 215 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown to Greg Olsen early in the game, then a 36-yard scoring play to Kealoha Pilares that put the Panthers ahead 28-24 with 7:55 remaining.

Newton also ran for 86 yards on nine carries, bulling his way into the end zone from 4 yards late in the third quarter.

The Panthers played much better than they did in their last outing, a 36-7 home loss to the New York Giants, but it wasn't enough to prevent them from sliding a daunting three games behind Atlanta in the NFC South.

"I want to apologize to my teammates and the fans that were watching out there," Newton said. "Everybody was doing their job. I clearly had the first down, but I've just got to hold onto the football."

Ryan also connected on a 60-yard touchdown with Michael Turner, who took a screen pass right about the line of scrimmage and zigzagged down the field for the first scoring reception of his nine-year career.

DeAngelo Williams scored Carolina's other TD on a 13-yard run.

Game notes

The Falcons failed to score a TD on their opening possession for the first time this season, going three-and-out. Also, it was the first time the Panthers did not allow a touchdown on their opponent's opening drive. ... Nakamura had an early interception, but it was largely a day to forget for the Carolina free safety. He was beaten on both of White's touchdown receptions, missed a tackle on Turner's scoring play and had the ball snatched away by White on the long pass that set up the winning field goal. ... Atlanta's only other 4-0 start came in 1986.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2124
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Total Plays6366
Total Yards404426
Yards per play6.46.5
Total Drives1312
Yards per pass
Interceptions thrown
Sacks-Yards Lost
Rushing Attempts
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-00-0
Fumbles lost
Interceptions thrown
Defensive / Special Teams TDs00

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders

Smith Sr.35217.3027

Scoring Summary

carTD11:54Greg Olsen 17 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 5 plays, 53 yds, 2:29
atlTD0:33Roddy White 49 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 77 yds, 1:30
atlFG13:16Matt Bryant 41 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 6 plays, 7 yds, 2:05
carTD8:50Deangelo Williams 13 Yard Run (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 7 plays, 79 yds, 4:27
atlTD1:55Roddy White 14 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 8 plays, 51 yds, 3:40
atlTD10:29Michael Turner 60 Yard Pass From Matt Ryan (Matt Bryant Kick is Good)
Drive info: 3 plays, 72 yds, 1:37
carTD3:23Cam Newton 4 Yard Run (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 12 plays, 77 yds, 7:01
carTD8:03Kealoha Pilares 36 Yard Pass From Cam Newton (Justin Medlock Kick is Good)
Drive info: 6 plays, 88 yds, 3:23
atlFG5:00Matt Bryant 33 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 9 plays, 65 yds, 2:58
atlFG0:10Matt Bryant 40 Yard Field Goal is Good
Drive info: 5 plays, 77 yds, 0:54

Research Notes

NEXT LEVEL: The Panthers defense shut down Julio Jones on Sunday, catching as many of his targets as he did (one reception and one interception on eight passes targeting Jones). While Jones was limited, teammate Roddy White flourished. Matt Ryan connected with White on eight of 12 targets for 169 yards and two touchdowns. The Ryan-to-White connection was especially productive on downfield throws.
NEXT LEVEL: Cam Newton was put under duress, hit or sacked on 10 of his 30 dropbacks, his highest total of the season. Newton finished 1-for-5 for six yards under pressure, his second-lowest yardage total in a game in his career. Newton was sacked three times and also scrambled twice for 17 yards under duress.
When the Panthers scored their 1st TD it was the 1st time ALL SEASON the Falcons had trailed (they went 183:05 without trailing in a game) FROM ELIAS: It's the longest the Falcons have gone without trailing to start a season since 2004, when they didn't trail in any of their first 4 games that season. It's the longest any team has gone without trailing since the Saints didn't trail in any of their first 5 games in 2009.

ESPN Stats & Information