The setup: Falcons with a second-and-goal at the Panthers’ half-yard line, 4 minutes, 22 seconds left in the first quarter.
What happened: Rather than call a running play, Matt Ryan threw into the end zone for an apparent touchdown to tight end Tommy Gallarda. But officials whistled Gallarda for pass interference for pushing off on linebacker Luke Kuechly, wiping out the score.
Why it mattered: The penalty pushed the Falcons back to the 11. Four plays later, safety Haruki Nakamura intercepted Ryan at the goal line to preserve the Panthers’ 7-0 lead.
Stewart’s knockdown block
The setup: Panthers with a second-and-4 from the Falcons’ 40, 9:39 remaining in the second quarter.
What happened: The Falcons call a safety blitz, with William Moore coming from the right side of the defense. Running back Jonathan Stewart puts a shoulder into Moore and knocks him down, allowing Cam Newton to make a 27-yard completion to a sliding Steve Smith.
Why it mattered: On the ensuing play, DeAngelo Williams goes up the middle on a zone-read play for a 13-yard touchdown and a 14-10 Panthers lead.
The setup: Panthers face a third-and-8 from the Falcons’ 19, 4:09 remaining in the third quarter.
What happened: Newton took a shotgun snap and looked like he was going to pass, then ran up the middle of the vacated Atlanta defense. Newton’s 15-yard gain gave the Panthers a first-and-goal at the 4.
Why it mattered: Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski went back to the draw on the next play, and Newton scored on a 4-yard run. The score cut the Falcons’ lead to 24-21 and capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive that lasted seven minutes.
Big Money’s big sack
The setup: Falcons facing third-and-3 from their 36, 2:41 remaining.
What happened: Ryan stands in the pocket, finds no one open downfield and rolls to his right. Charles Johnson runs Ryan down from the backside, shoves him out of bounds for 8-yard loss, forcing Falcons to punt.
Why it mattered: The sack gave Johnson 31/2 on the day, breaking a team single-game record. More importantly, it gave the Panthers the ball back and a chance to run down the clock.
The setup: Panthers have third-and-2 from the Falcons’ 46, 1:51 remaining in the fourth quarter.
What happened: Newton keeps the ball, runs off left tackle and dives for first-down yardage. But defensive end John Abraham strips the ball. Fullback Mike Tolbert recovers and the Panthers are initially awarded first down. Replay review moves the spot back a yard, forcing a fourth-and-1.
Why it mattered: A first down would have sealed the game. Instead, the Panthers punted and buried the Falcons at their 1. A Ryan-to-Roddy White 59-yard pass on the first play helped set up Atlanta’s game-winning field goal. Joseph Person