The Falcons didn't play well in the first half, but they showed more signs of life in the second half.
After adding a field goal in the third quarter and a touchdown early in the fourth, they appeared to be putting another touchdown drive togetherr when things spun out around the Carolina 45. A sack of Matt Ryan pushed them back, but when they couldn't convert on third down, the juncture of the game dictated that Atlanta had to go for it on fourth down.
On the attempted conversion, Ryan was intercepted by Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis. The takeaway came with over six minutes remaining and the Panthers were able to take the possession and attempt to grind down the clock, as they had all game long against Atlanta's defense. Carolina held the ball for 35:47 in the win.
"Attempt" is the operative word. A run defense that showed their troubles again on Sunday allowed running back DeAngelo Williams to turn a screen pass into a 53-yard touchdown to give the Panthers a 30-13 lead.
It was a day of struggles all around the Falcons. They allowed 195 yards on the ground, 72 coming from Cam Newton in a third-quarter touchdown run, but they also allowed 280 passing yards.
Third downs were of particular trouble for the Falcons on both sides of the ball. They finished Week 13 with a 1-for-11 effort and came away in Sunday's loss posting a two-for-eight effort. On defense they allowed nine of 15 conversions, helping the Panthers stay on the field, eat the clock and churn up yards toward the end zone.
A late Michael Turner rushing touchdown made the final score 30-20.
Despite the loss, the Falcons remain in the driver's seat in the NFC on their way to the playoffs. The 11-2 Falcons host the currently 7-5 New York Giants