CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Matt Ryan can’t explain why he seems to own the Carolina Panthers.
He just does.
Ryan led yet another comeback victory over the Panthers, giving him six wins in his past seven starts against the division rival.
Ryan threw two of his four touchdown passes in the fourth-quarter to rookie Julio Jones and the Falcons erased a 16-point halftime deficit for a 31-23 victory on Sunday. Ryan finished with 320 yards passing and his four TDs matched a career high. Equally as important, Ryan kept the Falcons (8-5) in playoff position in the wild-card race with three games left.
“We approached it as the first of four legs,” Ryan said. “We’ve knocked the first leg out and now we’ve got to move on and keep going.”
Atlanta closes the season with Jacksonville at home, at New Orleans and at home against Tampa Bay.
Ryan seems to have Carolina’s number.
The first time the teams met, the Falcons trailed by three points in the fourth quarter but rallied for a 31-17 win on Oct. 16.
Down 16 points at the half, Ryan earned his “Matty Ice” nickname.
He came out of the locker room poised and calm but firing on all cylinders in the second half, throwing for 232 yards and three scores.
Jones, who finished with 104 yards receiving, was quiet for most of the game but caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ryan to give the Falcons a 24-23 lead early in the fourth quarter. After Olindo Mare missed a field goal that would have put the Panthers up by two, Ryan went for the jugular and found Jones across this middle for a catch-and-run 75-yard touchdown with 4:17 left in the game.
Carolina’s final drive ended with an incomplete pass on fourth-and-5 from the Atlanta 27.
“He just kept his poise,” Jones said of Ryan. “He kept it positive on the sideline, encouraged us to keep it going, keep it going. Eventually, we did, and we came up with a W at the end.”
For the Panthers (4-9), it was more of the same, marking the sixth time this season they’ve lost after being ahead or tied in the fourth quarter.
Cam Newton started strong, completing 9 of 14 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the first half as the Panthers built a 23-7 lead. But he was intercepted twice in the second half.