ATLANTA — Matt Bryant kicked five field goals, including a 56-yarder, for all of Atlanta’s second-half points and the Falcons clinched a playoff spot by beating the Panthers 22-10 Sunday.
After the teams played to a 7-7 halftime tie, Bryant kicked field goals of 30, 42, 30, 56 and 33 yards without a miss.
Atlanta clinched the No. 6 seed in the NFC and plays at the Rams next weekend in the first round of the playoffs.
On a day when Cam Newton and the Panthers’ offense struggled, Bryant’s 15 points provided a margin too great for Carolina to overcome.
The Panthers had a playoff spot secured entering the weekend, but they couldn’t improve their position.
Minnesota’s 23-10 win over Chicago earlier Sunday ended Carolina’s hopes of a first-round bye. The loss to the Falcons ended the Panthers’ goal of winning the NFC South. Carolina opens the playoffs at division rival New Orleans. The Bucs are the only team in the division not to make the playoffs.
Matt Ryan completed 28 of 45 for 317 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to former FSU standout Devonta Freeman on Atlanta’s opening drive, and didn’t have an interception.
The Panthers pulled even on Newton’s 4-yard scoring pass to Devin Funchess late in the first half.
Newton threw three second-half interceptions. The third, by Robert Alford in the end zone with 8 seconds left, ended the Panthers’ final drive. Newton completed 14 of 34 for 180 yards and a TD.
With the score tied in the third quarter, the Falcons had an apparent touchdown taken off the board when a review concluded that Mohamed Sanu didn’t maintain control of a 12-yard catch in the end zone. The ball hit the ground after Sanu collided with Julio Jones, who also was crossing to the middle of the end zone.
The Falcons settled for Bryant’s first 30-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead.
Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart was out due to back tightness. The Panthers also were without two more starters: safety Kurt Coleman (ankle), and right guard Trai Turner (concussion).