The Panthers, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, trailed most of the game against the disappointing Falcons (4-12) but overtook Atlanta when Cam Newton hit Greg Olsen with a seven-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter for a 21-17 lead.
Carolina won the division crown for the first time in five years and have advanced to the playoffs for the first time since that success in 2008.
The Panthers improved to 12-4 for the season.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, Editing by Gene Cherry)
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