The Carolina Panthers received the opening kickoff but held possession for only seven seconds. On the first play from scrimmage, Jonathan Stewart – who was coming off back-to-back great rushing games – fumbled and it was recovered by Dunta Robinson at the 29-yard line. Three plays later, Matt Ryan found Tony Gonzalez for a 4-yard touchdown pass giving the Falcons an early 7-0 lead.
If there was any doubt the Falcons would be taking this game lightly or looking sluggish against a 1-11 team, the first minute or so of the game put all those doubts to rest. The Panthers were held to three-and-out on their next possession and the Falcons went to work again, leading 7-0 in Carolina.
Michael Turner had one carry for 16 yards and Roddy White caught one pass for nine yards on the touchdown drive before Ryan found Gonzalez in the middle of the end zone.