Panthers lose third in a row 20-14.

Carolina had a chance to win the second division title in franchise history after New Orleans lost earlier in the day. Instead, the Panthers lost their third in a row.

Carolina had a chance to win the second division title in franchise history after New Orleans lost earlier in the day. Instead, the Panthers lost their third in a row.

Carolina had won three overtime games this season, all on the road. But this game belonged to Vick, whose first start created more excitement than the Falcons have generated all season.

Kevin Mathis scored on a 32-yard interception return in overtime, leading the Atlanta Falcons past the Carolina Panthers 20-14 Sunday night.

After Deon Grant picked off Vick's pass at the Carolina 2 to deny the Falcons (3-10) a chance to win in regulation, the Panthers (8-5) got the ball first in overtime.

On third down, Jake Delhomme attempted a pass over the middle. Mathis stepped in front of intended receiver Mushin Muhammad, picked off the ball and headed the other way.

Delhomme attempted to knock Mathis out of bounds at the 1, but Mathis dived into the pylon. After calling off the Falcons' celebration to review the play, referee Bill Carollo ruled Mathis had scored.

Delhomme was 13-of-25 for 153 yards, and had two interceptions.

The Falcons -- and Vick -- got to celebrate again, having won their first home game of the season and denying Carolina a chance to clinch the NFC South championship.

Most of the night, it was like Vick had never been away. He ran by and jumped over the Panthers, even showing a feisty streak after being sidelined for 3 1/2 months.

Vick completed 16 of 33 passes for 179 yards, but it was his running that stood out. He averaged 10.1 yards on 14 carries, leaving the Panthers nipping at his heels or just flailing at air.

``You get everybody downfield and he takes off running,'' Carolina safety Mike Minter said. ``That's what makes him Michael Vick.''


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