ATLANTA – For the first time this season, there was no big comeback for Carolina. No clutch play at a key moment. No costly mistake by its opponent in the last few minutes.
The perfect start is over for Cam Newton and the Panthers.
After Julio Jones' spectacular 70-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter gave Atlanta the lead, the Panthers came up empty in two possessions in the final three minutes as the Falcons held on for a 20-13 victory on Sunday.
Carolina (14-1) got the ball for the last time with 90 seconds left and no timeouts remaining. Newton completed a 19-yard pass to Corey Brown on first down but fumbled when stripped by Vic Beasley Jr. on the following play. Adrian Clayborn recovered for the Falcons, wrapping up the victory.
It was Carolina's first regular-season loss since Nov. 30, 2014, at Minnesota. The Panthers did not get into the end zone after their opening drive.
"That's unacceptable, particularly at this time of the year," Newton said.
Newton, the Panthers' MVP candidate with the Superman celebration pose, was merely human. He threw for 142 yards and was held without a touchdown pass for only the second time this season.
Carolina's 13 points set a season low. The Panthers had scored at least 24 points in 13 consecutive games.
"We're 14-1 now," Newton said. "We put ourselves in a situation that we can use this as fuel to the fire."
The Falcons (8-7) spoiled the Panthers' bid for a perfect season only two weeks after being humbled in a 38-0 loss at Carolina.
"I viewed this game as a measuring stick for us," Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said. "I wanted to see how our team would respond after the game up there."
Matt Ryan threw for 306 yards and one touchdown for the Falcons. Devonta Freeman ran for 73 yards and a TD.
Jones got the best of his much-anticipated matchup with Carolina cornerback Josh Norman. Jones had nine catches for 178 yards, including the dramatic touchdown catch.
Jones reached above linebacker Luke Kuechly for the catch as Panthers safety Kurt Coleman slipped, leaving a clear path for Jones to the end zone. The play put Atlanta ahead to stay at 14-10.
"Julio made a great play on it," Kuechly said. "That's really all there is. I thought I was in a good spot, but he went up and got it."