Carolina no longer playoff contender following 24-10 loss to Atlanta

The Carolina Panthers were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday following a tough loss to the Atlanta Falcons. 

Even the sharp throws by Taylor Heinecke weren't enough to overcome the Falcons strong defense. This was Heinecke's first starting game, as Cam Newton was benched with a reported shoulder injury. 

The game started out strong for Carolina, with a clean pass from Heinecke to Ian Thomas for a touchdown. It was the first passing touchdown by a Panthers quarterback since week 13 against the Bucs, highlighting how weak the Panthers' offense has been. 

LINK: PHOTOS: Carolina Panthers vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons returned with a touchdown of their own when Matt Ryan passed to Julio Jones. The score was tied 7-7, until the Panthers hit a field goal. The Falcons returned and the score was 10-10 at the half. 

In the second half, the Falcons dominated, scoring two rushing touchdowns. Carolina's defense left some critical holes open that allowed Atlanta through, and lacked in coverage down the field. 

While players like Donte Jackson and Eric Reid made many necessary stops, the Panthers defense lacked overall today, and Heinecke couldn't pull offense out of their six-game rut.

Carolina fell 24-10 to Atlanta, bringing them to 6-9 this season.