The Falcons topped NFC South rival Carolina 31-10 to improve to 4-0 in the division.
Atlanta improved to an NFC-best 11-2 with its 31-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. The Falcons won at Bank of America Stadium for the first time under Head Coach Mike Smith and improved to 4-0 against division opponents this season.
For the second time in the last three seasons, the Birds have posted 11 wins in a season. It is the first time in franchise history that the team has posted three straight winning seasons and 11 wins are tied for the third-most in a single season in franchise history. The Falcons posted a franchise-best 14-2 record in 1998, went 12-4 in 1980 and posted 11-5 seasons in 2004 and 2008.
The Falcons defense set the tone for Sunday's game when LB Mike Peterson forced Panthers' RB Jonathan Stewart to fumble on the opening play of the game. CB Dunta Robinson scooped up the loose ball to give Atlanta possession on the Carolina 29-yard line.
The forced fumble was the seventh of the season for the Falcons and their 23rd takeaway overall. It was also Peterson's second forced fumble of the year. The Birds 23 takeaways in 2010 are just five shy of the 28 they totaled last season.
On the ensuing drive, the Falcons needed just three plays to score as QB Matt Ryan hit TE Tony Gonzalez for a four-yard touchdown. The three-play scoring drive was Atlanta's third scoring drive of four-or-fewer plays this season.
With his fifth touchdown reception of the season, Gonzalez tied WR Andre Reed for 11th on the NFL's all-time receiving touchdowns list with 87 career scores. The future Hall of Famer has now recorded five straight seasons with at least five touchdown catches, including two as a member of the Falcons.
Ryan tied his career-high with his 22nd touchdown pass of the season. The third-year pro has thrown at least one touchdown in a career-best 12 consecutive games and the Falcons own a 28-7 record when he finds a man in the end zone at least once. Since 2008, Ryan's 60 touchdowns rank fifth in the NFC.
Peterson also intercepted Carolina QB Jimmy Clausen in the fourth quarter, leading to a Falcons touchdown with just over four minutes to play. In 2010, Atlanta has been one of the best teams in the League in scoring points off of turnovers. The Falcons have now scored 84 points on 24 turnovers and entered the game ranked sixth in the NFC with 70 points on 22 takeaways.
With a 14-yard completion to Turner in the first quarter, Ryan eclipsed 3,000 passing yards on the season, marking the second time in his career that he's thrown for over 3,000 yards. The Falcons are the first NFC team with a 3,000-yard passer (Ryan), a 1,000-yard rusher (RB Michael Turner) and a 1,000-yard receiver (WR Roddy White) this season. The Houston Texans (Matt Schaub-Arian Foster-Andre Johnson) are the only other team to accomplish that feat in 2010.
RB Michael Turner found the end zone three times, marking his first triple-touchdown game of the season. He has scored at least one touchdown in four straight games. Turner has now scored 10 touchdowns in his last seven games. Additionally, Turner has recorded a team-leading 11 touchdowns this season.
Turner, the third-year Falcons running back, has posted at least 10 rushing touchdowns in each of his seasons in Atlanta, including a franchise-record 17 scores in 2008. Turner is the first running back in franchise history to post three consecutive seasons with 10-or-more rushing touchdowns. Since 2008, Turner has notched 38 rushing touchdowns and ranks second in the NFL behind Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson (39 touchdowns).
DE John Abraham dragged down Carolina starting QB Jimmy Clausen twice during Sunday's game, giving him a team-high 11.0 sacks. Abraham also became the 25th player in NFL history to record 100-or-more sacks in a career (100.5). Additionally, Abraham has posted double-digit sacks three times in the last five seasons.
In his 11 seasons in the NFL, Abraham has posted two-plus sacks 24 times, including four times in 2010. Since he joined the team in 2006, the Falcons are 11-1 when he sacks the quarterback two-or-more times in a game.
DE Kroy Biermann also sacked Clausen twice, while fellow DE Chauncey Davis pulled down the rookie signal caller once. The defense totaled a season-high five sacks pushing its season total to 25.0 sacks, just three shy of the 28.0 quarterback takedowns it posted in 2009.
Turner finished the game with 112 yards on 28 carries and a season-high three touchdowns. The Burner posted his fourth straight 100-yard game against the Panthers and in five games against Carolina, Turner has logged 501 yards and eight touchdowns. In his last 11 division games, Turner has run for 1,247yards and 16 TDs.
Atlanta's pass defense held Clausen to just 107 passing yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The rookie from Notre Dame posted a passer rating of just 51.9 and was sacked five times by the Falcons.
K Matt Bryant hit a 39-yard field goal in the first half which gave Atlanta a 17-0 lead with just two and a half minutes remaining in the half. Bryant has now connected on 13 straight field goal attempts.
Entering Sunday's game, the Falcons led the League, converting 48.1 percent of their third down attempts. Atlanta continued its impressive play, converting nine of 17 attempts for a 53 percent third down rate. Additionally, the Birds have posted a League-high 294 first downs this season.
On the other side of the ball, the Falcons have made third-down defense a priority this season. In Sunday's win the Falcons held the Panthers to a 23 percent third-down rate, allowing Carolina to convert just three of 13 third down attempts. The Falcons defense also allowed just 13 first downs in the win.
Atlanta entered this week's matchup ranked third in the League in time of possession, controlling the clock for an average of 32:15 this season. In Sunday's win over the Panthers, the Falcons held the ball for 34:50 and limited the Panthers to just 25:10 with the ball.