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Falcons wrap up home-field advantage in NFC with win
ATLANTA | The Atlanta Falcons, No. 1 in the NFC, embraced home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Carolina Panthers, No. 1 in the NFL draft, said goodbye to their coach.
The Falcons (13-3) earned their first division title since 2004 and a bye next weekend. Team owner Arthur Blank took a bath afterward as players dumped a cooler of liquid on him.
The Falcons had good reason to celebrate only their fourth division title: They are the No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the first time in 30 years.
One of coach Mike Smith’s preseason goals was for the Falcons to “become relevant” in the NFL.
“We’re very relevant,” Smith said after the win. “We’ve worked very hard to attain this position.”
The Falcons have to wait a week to know who they will face on the weekend of Jan. 15-16. Roddy White, who had a touchdown catch, said all that matters is the Falcons know they’ll play in the Georgia Dome.
“It’s very important,” White said. “We rarely lose in this building. We find a way to win here.”
The Falcons are 20-2 in home games started by Ryan the last three years.
Carolina (2-14) had a weak finish to an awful season under Fox, finishing with the NFL’s worst record. The league’s worst offense was held without a touchdown until the final minute.
“It’s been a heck of a run,” Fox said. “A lot of good memories. I know I didn’t finish like anybody wanted. I would have never expected to have a nine-year run. If I was given the chance to do it all over again, I would.”
The Panthers were kept out of the end zone until Jimmy Clausen’s 2-yard pass to tight end Jeff King with 23 seconds remaining.The rookie completed 19 of 33 passes for 182 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
By Bob Dole
The industrious island has proved itself worthy of U.S. inclusion
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