Falcons Fly Into First Place

The Falcons beat the Panthers 19-17 Sunday in Charlotte.

Who cares if the NFC South is the worst division in the NFL?

The Atlanta Falcons won on Sunday. They outscored their opponent for the fourth time in 10 games.

At the same time, the New Orleans Saints lost Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was their sixth loss in 10 games.

So you know what that means. The Falcons are in first place. Sure, they are tied with the Saints, but since Atlanta won the season-opener against their arch-rival, the Falcons sit atop the standings after 11 weeks of the NFL season.

The Falcons had a comfortable 16-3 lead evaporate in the fourth quarter as Carolina scored two touchdowns to take a 17-16 lead. Then the Panthers missed two field goals late, while Matt Bryant nailed a 44-yarder to once again give the Falcons a victory.

Bryant’s four field goals were the difference. He nailed a 34-yarder to tie the game at three in the second quarter. Then right before halftime, Bryant hit a 42-yard field goal to give the Falcons a three-point lead at intermission.

The Falcons scored 10 points in the third quarter to take the 13-point lead, with the first three coming on a 26-yard field goal. Then Matt Ryan threw a two-yard pass to Roddy White to give Atlanta the comfortable lead.

White went over 10,000 yards for his career with his 75 yards on eight catches on the day.

Carolina did not go away, however. The Panthers scored first in the fourth quarter on a 22-yard pass from Cam Newton to Kelvin Benjamin. Then less than three minutes later Newton connected with Philly Brown on a 47-yard score to give the Panthers the lead after the PAT.

The Falcons drove down the field and tried to get six points, but had to settle for a final field goal from Bryant. Carolina then connected on a couple of passes to set up a 46-yard field goal attempt by Graham Gano, but the kick was wide left.

Atlanta went three and out as Steven Jackson could only gain nine yards on three runs. The Panthers got the ball back with 0:22 left and made three passes to set up one more attempt for Gano, but his 63-yard attempt was blocked by Ra’Shede Hageman to seal the victory for the Falcons.

Ryan was 31-45 for 268 yards and one touchdown pass. Jackson managed only 41 yards on 17 carries.

Atlanta now gets back home after a long sabbatical from the Georgia Dome. The Falcons host Cleveland next Sunday at 1:00 pm ET on CBS.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and e-mail him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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