A new NFC South champion was born on Saturday in Charlotte.
There was no dabbing. No dancing on the sidelines. No selfies with Santa Claus.
The Falcons came out and methodically pressed the Panthers’ heads to the turf and then stomped them out with a 55-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman in the fourth quarter.
The news only got better as they earned the NFC South title with a Tampa Bay loss and picked up a shot at the No. 2 seed and a possible bye with Seattle’s loss.
Here are the grades from the Falcons’ 33-16 victory over the Panthers:
Game balls: Running back Tevin Coleman, Tight ends Joshua Perkins and D.J. Tialevea.
Quarterbacks, A-plus. Matt Ryan completed 27 of 33 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 121.8. His 26-yard touchdown pass to Perkins set the new franchise mark for most touchdown passes in a season. It was his 33rd touchdown pass of the season breaking his old mark of 32 set in 2012.
Running backs, A-plus. Coleman, who had 90 yards rushing on nine carries and caught three passes for 45 yards, and Freeman, who had 53 yards rushing on 13 carries and caught eight passes for 35 yards, combined for 223 total yards. It was the fourth time this season the two combined for more than 200 yards from scrimmage. Coleman’s 55-yard touchdown run was the tandem’s 18th score of the season, the most of any running back tandem in the league.
Wide receivers/tight ends, A-plus. Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who played 39 of 62 offensive snaps (62 percent), made his return after missing the past two games with a sprained toe. He caught a pass on the first play of the game but only had two catches for 21 yards at halftime as Ryan moved the ball around to a season-high 10 different receivers by the half. On the Falcons’ first possession of the third quarter, Jones caught passes for 22 yards and 17 yards to help push a 10-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 29-yard field goal by Bryant to make it 23-6 with 3:39 left in the third quarter. Jones finished with four catches for 60 yards. The Falcons have been hit hard at the tight end position by rash of injuries. Jacob Tamme was lost for the season with shoulder injury and Austin Hooper missed this game with a knee injury. Perkins, who made the team as an undrafted free agent from Washington, caught his first career touchdown pass on the opening drive. Perjins ran a nice route and caught the ball between cornerback James Bradberry and linebacker Thomas Davis for the score. Tialevea, who has been on the practice squad, was activated to the 53-man roster on Thursday. He caught a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Tight end Levine Toilolo also had a catch for 10 yards.
Offensive line, B-minus. The offensive line gave up four sacks and nine quarterback hits. That’s too many. They made up for most of that by helping to power the rushing attack, which averaged 6.3 yards per carry as the Falcons rushed for 152 yards on 25 carries. Left guard Andy Levitre left the game with a hip injury and was replaced by Ben Garland. Levitre played 42 of 63 offensive snaps (67 percent). Garland played 21 snaps.
Defensive line, A. The defensive line sold out to stop the run and Carolina running back Jonathan Stewart. They contested their blocks and didn’t give up any ground. That allowed the linebackers, especially Deion Jones, to clean up in the run game. The defensive line also had two sacks and five quarterbacks hits. Ra’Shede Hageman has a sack for the second week in a row and Brooks Reed and Courtney Upshaw split a sack. Because of the work of the defensive line, the Falcons held the dangerous Stewart to 50 yards on 11 carries.
Linebackers, A: Jones led the team with 13 tackles and nearly had an interception. Paul Worrilow had four tackles and Vic Beasley had two tackles.
Defensive backs, A. The Falcons did an excellent job of taking away Cam Newton’s first-read and made him hold the ball. He was also erratic and should have had more than two interceptions. Cornerback Brian Poole and Jalen Collins both had interceptions in the first half. Collins was beaten by Carolina wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for a 26-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the third quarter to pull the Panthers within 23-13. Safety Keanu Neal, the team’s leading tackler, left the game with an ankle injury. He returned but appeared to be gimpy after a few tackles. The Falcons broke up eight passes.
Special teams, B. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl on Tuesday, made field-goal attempts from 51 and 48 yards, but had a 33-yard attempt blocked right before the half by Carolina’s Vernon Butler. Bryant added a 29-yard field in the third quarter and a 50-yarder in the fourth quarter for the final score. The kickoff coverage team gave up a 47-yard return to Fozzy Whitaker. He averaged 42 yards on two returns. Matt Bosher had six touchbacks on kickoffs.
Coaching, A-minus. The Falcons were ready to play. But the stalls in the red-zone kept them from receiving an A-plus. In the playoffs, 33 percent in the red zone is sub-standard. Also, the coverage units must step up their game in the regular-season finale heading into the playoffs.
NEXT UP: The Falcons (10-5) host the New Orleans Saints (7-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at in the regular-season finale at the Georgia Dome.
GAME 15: Falcons 33, Panthers 16
GAME 14: Falcons 41, 49ers 13
GAME 13: Falcons 42, Rams 14
GAME 12: Chiefs 29, Falcons 28
GAME 11: Falcons 38, Cardinals 19
GAME 10: Eagles 24, Falcons 15
GAME SEVEN: Chargers 33, Falcons 30 in OT
GAME SIX: Seahawks 26, Falcons 24
GAME FIVE: Falcons 23, Broncos 16
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24