CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Like so many of Terance Mathis' catches during his seven-year career with the Atlanta Falcons, his grab of 15 yards late in the fourth quarter Sunday at Carolina was far from spectacular, yet very important to his team's success.
Not only did the catch convert a third-and-14 into a first down that eventually led to a 27-yard field goal by Morten Andersen, putting Atlanta ahead 13-10, but it also made Mathis the most prolific receiver in club history.
A season after he set the team record for number of receptions in a career, the 5-foot-10, 186-pound receiver from Stone Mountain, Ga., now has the most receiving yards with 6,262, breaking Alfred Jenkins' mark of 6,257.
"Congratulations to Terance Mathis," coach Dan Reeves said. "What a great accomplishment to be the all-time leading receiver. He's without question as good a pro as I have ever been around because he works hard at being the best he can be. He's great for the Atlanta Falcons, and he's had a great career, in my opinion. And he's got a lot of time to add to it."
Mathis caught five passes for 42 yards against the Panthers to extend his club record for receptions to 475 catches.
Atlanta cornerback Ashley Ambrose had a simple birthday wish Sunday: He wanted an interception.
"They asked me what I wanted, and I said I wanted an interception, that's all," he said moments after sealing the victory by stealing a Steve Beuerlein pass and returning it 38 yards late in the fourth quarter to kill any hopes Carolina had of a comeback. "This is so sweet. I had to do something right to make my birthday special.
"I kind of disguised my coverage, and Steve probably thought I was hanging in the flat. He didn't see me. When he threw it, all I had to do was make the play."
Ambrose's best friend, cornerback Ray Buchanan, also had an interception earlier in the game.
Midway in the fourth quarter, Buchanan knocked the ball loose from Carolina running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka and both Ambrose and Buchanan fought over the fumble. Buchanan wound up winning the tug-of-war.
"I should have had that fumble, too," he said. "It's my birthday."
Ambrose, who signed a free agent contract in the off-season, turned 30 Sunday.
"It was a crazy game," Buchanan said. "This is the way we were supposed to be playing all along. Our backs were against the wall after a terrible (42-14) loss last week (at Denver). Defensively, we had to go out and fight. During the times we had to make some quick calls, Ashley and I took advantage of it."
JAMMIN' WITH JAMAL:
Jamal Anderson took a huge step toward being back at full speed by running 22 times for 97 yards.
"It was cool," he said. "It was good to have the long runs (including a 26-yard touchdown and a 42-yard run late in the game). All those nine-on-seven drills in practice where we're working hard to create some (running) lanes is starting to pay off."
Added to the 7 yards by fullback Bob Christian and 4 yards by quarterback Chris Chandler, the Falcons had their first 100-yard rushing game of the season. At the same time, the Atlanta defense held the Panthers ground game to just 59 yards.
Before the game, Reeves said the key to winning was running the ball more consistently and keeping Carolina from running. It proved to be a good game plan.
Tight end Dallas Neil, offensive tackle Michael Thompson, defensive tackle Ed Jasper and quarterback Danny Kanell weren't activated for Atlanta's final 45-man roster 90 minutes before kickoff. ... Carolina's inactives were offensive guard Leander Jordan, tight end Casey Crawford, wide receiver Dialleo Burks and defensive tackle Sean Gilbert. ... Ericsson Stadium is the only football stadium in the National Football League that gives updates on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series race. Fans were told late in the fourth quarter that Jeff Burton won at the New Hampshire International Speedway. ... Atlanta's only other victory in six games at Ericsson Stadium came in 1998. Like Sunday's victory, the winning margin was five points, and the Falcons' point total was enhanced by a safety.
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.