Carolina quarterback Cam NewtonÂ reached another NFL first on Sunday, but it didn’t prevent the Panthers from losing for the first time this season. The Atlanta Falcons’ 20-13 victory prevented Carolina from becoming the third team in NFL history to have a 15-0 record.
The Falcons also ended the Panthers’ 18-game regular-season winning streak, the third-longest in NFL history, which included a 38-0 win over Atlanta just two weeks ago.
The loss broke Newton’s nine-game winning streak in December. Before Sunday, Carolina hadn’t lost a game started by Newton in the 12th month since a 31-13 setback against the New Orleans Saints on Dec. 8, 2013.
Newton fumbled when he was sacked on Carolina’s final snap of the game, allowing Atlanta to run out the final 62 seconds of their victory.
“We got our (butt) kicked today,” Newton said, “and to a lot of degree, we deserved it, especially the type of way we played — Â offensively, defensively and special teams. And I’m talking with the mirror in front of my face. There were some plays that we left out there. We knew it. Yet we know what we’re capable of. … We’ve put ourselves in this situation where we can use this as fuel to the fire.”
The Panthers already had secured the NFC South title and a first-round bye in the playoffs. Carolina would have locked up homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs by beating the Falcons.
Newton completed 17-of-30 passes for 142 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions on Sunday. He had seven rushing attempts for 46 yards, including an 8-yard touchdown run to cap Carolina’s opening possession of the game.
The TD run made Newton the first NFL player with at least 30 touchdown passes and as many as eight rushing touchdowns in the same season. Steve Young of the San Francisco 49ers in 1994 and Daunte Culpepper of the Minnesota Vikings in 2000 had been the only other NFL players with at least 30 touchdown passes and seven TD runs in the same season.
With 41 touchdown runs in his career, Newton moved into sole possession of third place on the NFL’s all-time quarterback list. Otto Graham holds the NFL record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback with 44. Young is second with 43. Before Sunday, Newton was tied for third with Jack Kemp.
For the season, Newton has completed 275-of-476 passes for 3,544 yards and 33 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He’s run 126 times for 626 yards and eight touchdowns.
Newton was among the 17 former AuburnÂ players who got on the field during the 16th Sunday of the NFL’s 2015 season.
Other former Auburn players who started on Sunday included cornerback Jerraud Powers of the Arizona Cardinals, middle linebacker Karlos Dansby of the Cleveland Browns, outside linebacker Josh Bynes of the Detroit Lions, outside linebacker Dee Ford of the Kansas City Chiefs and left offensive tackle Greg Robinson of the St. Louis Rams.
Powers scored the second touchdown of his seven-season NFL career in the Cardinals’ 38-8 victory over the Green Bay Packers. Powers made three tackles and recovered two fumbles in the game. He recovered running back James Starks’ fumble at the Green Bay 28-yard line on the first snap of the second half to set up an Arizona touchdown as the Cardinals took a 24-0 lead. Later in the period, Powers picked up a loose ball caused by Dwight Freeney’s sack of Aaron Rodgers and returned it 7 yards for a touchdown to give Arizona a 38-8 lead with 3:05 left in the third quarter. Powers’ other NFL touchdown came on an interception return for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011.