CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers scored 20 consecutive points to help get an early comeback over the Atlanta Falcons, and the defending NFC Champions dropped their first division game 20-17.
A field goal on their first possession and a 6-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Mohamed Sanu got the Falcons up by 10 in the first quarter.
But then the offense-- which had shown flashes of what it was a year ago-- completely lost its mojo. Ryan threw an interception to Mike Adams. Ryan either threw the ball in the wrong spot or there was a miscommunication with Hooper on his route.
Ryan overthrew Julio Jones who was wide open in the end zone. Jones had six catches for 118 yards, including one on the team's third drive. Jones was injured on that play, and continued to play hurt.
Penalties made situations worse, and the Falcons couldn't convert in short yardage situations. On third-and-inches, the Falcons ran a pass play and Ryan overthrew Hooper. Later, Ryan scrambled for a loss on 2nd-and-2, and he was sacked on third down.
With time running out, Ryan threw to Jones who was wide open in the end zone again on fourth down, but Jones dropped the ball, stunning everyone. Jones patted himself on the chest to indicate the drop was completely his fault.
Ryan completed 24-of-38 for 313 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the defense struggled to limit rookie back Christian McCaffery on the ground and through the air. McCaffery had 68 yards on the ground and five receptions for 28 yards.
After Keanu Neal forced two fumbles, one of which led to the Falcons' first touchdown, the running game got going, in large part thanks to Cam Newton. Newton completed 13-of-22 for 137 yards. He rushed for another 85 yards. Vic Beasley was able to sack Newton once.
Kicker Matt Bryant suffered an injury, and it put the Falcons in four down territory early in the game. After a turnover on downs, a big catch by Devin Funchess set up a 4-yard McCaffery touchdown. After Ryan's interception, Newton ran 9 yards, diving into the end zone, to give the Panthers the lead before halftime.
A 40-yard catch from Taylor Gabriel and touchdown pass to Tevin Coleman put the Falcons back in it with about four minutes to go. The defense forced the Panthers to go three-and-out, but the offense tried four straight passes to get a 1st down and couldn't get it done. Ryan threw it away on third down, and Kevon Seymour swatted the ball away from Gabriel on fourth down.
The Falcons are 4-4 and have lost four of their last five games. They host the Dallas Cowboys at home on Sunday.