Ryan throws 4 TDs as Falcons beat Panthers 31-23

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 11 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Despite their struggles in the second half, the Panthers looked poised to regain the lead midway through the fourth quarter but Newton couldn't hook up with Greg Olsen in the back of the end zone and the Panthers settled for a 36-yard field goal attempt. But Mare, just as he'd done with a chance to tie the game late at home against Minnesota, pushed a very makeable go-ahead field goal wide left.

Coach Ron Rivera said he plans to sit down with Mare to talk about what's wrong.

"It's the second one he's hooked left, pretty much from almost the same area (on the field)," Rivera said of Mare, who was given a four-year, $12 million contract this offseason.

The Falcons seized the momentum.

Two plays later, on second-and-11, Jones caught a pass over the middle and broke through a tackle by Butler and Sherrod Martin and raced 75 yards to the end zone.

The Panthers spotted the Falcons a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter before seizing the momentum with 23 straight points to close the first half. Newton got the Panthers on the board with a nifty Tim Tebow-style play, faking a run up the middle and stopping to throw a jump pass over the middle to a wide open Jeremy Shockey for a 6-yard touchdown.

After a Jason Baker punt pinned the Falcons at their own 2, defensive end Antwan Applewhite sacked Ryan in the end zone and suddenly the Panthers could do no wrong.

Two plays later DeAngelo Williams sprinted around the right side and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. Carolina continued to pile on its next possession when Newton faked a screen to Jonathan Stewart on one side and threw back to Olsen on the other, who raced 44 yards for a touchdown.

The Falcons outscored the Panthers 24-0 in the second half.

"We just brought a different attitude out there in the second half," said safety Thomas DeCoud. "They caught us off guard early with a couple of things they didn't show us on film. In the second half, we bit down and did what we needed to get done."

Notes: The Falcons are 21-0 when Ryan has a quarterback rating of 100 or more. ... Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith became the 35th player in NFL history to reach 10,000 yards receiving for his career on a 16-yard reception in the second quarter.

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