Previously perfect Panthers beaten by Falcons

Sun Dec 27, 2015 8:09pm EST
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(The Sports Xchange) - With one mighty leap, Julio Jones ended the Carolina Panthers' perfect season.

Atlanta's star receiver discarded one Carolina defender, jumped over another and snagged a 70-yard pass from quarterback Matt Ryan for the go-ahead score late in the third quarter in the Falcons' 20-13 win over the Panthers on Sunday at the Georgia Dome.

The Falcons handed the Panthers (14-1) their first loss and, for now, kept them from clinching home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs. Atlanta (8-7) also kept its own playoff hopes alive, although a win by the Minnesota Vikings later in the day would eliminate the Falcons from postseason contention.

Carolina quarterback Cam Newton had two chances to lead comeback drives late in the fourth quarter but couldn't get the Panthers in the end zone.

"They may have taken us lightly," Falcons rookie linebacker Vic Beasley said. "But we didn't take them lightly."

One week after battling New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. physically and verbally, Carolina Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman struggled to keep up with Jones. But Norman wasn't matched up on Jones on the biggest play of the game.

On third and 14, Ryan scrambled to his left and heaved a deep ball to Jones, who was covered by corner Charles Tillman and linebacker Luke Kuechly. Neither could climb with Jones, who leaped up, made the catch and strolled into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

"Just how we drew it up," joked Falcons coach Dan Quinn.

Jones finished with 178 yards on nine receptions and broke his own Falcons record for receiving yards in a season.   Continued...

Dec 27, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) scores a touchdown past Carolina Panthers defensive end Jared Allen (69) in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports