ATLANTA — Carolina’s blueprint for playoff success has been set: Let the sack-happy defense lead the way and hope dual-threat quarterback Cam Newton can add just enough offense.
Newton threw two touchdown passes, Greg Hardy had a team-record four sacks and the Panthers clinched their first NFC South title in five years by beating the Atlanta Falcons, 21-20, on Sunday.
‘‘Now we can cross that goal off,’’ said linebacker Luke Kuechly. ‘‘Now we can concentrate, get guys healthy and get ready to go.’’
Making their first trip to the playoffs since 2008, the Panthers (12-4) secured the NFC’s No. 2 seed, a first-round bye, and home-field advantage for at least one game. Full story for BostonGlobe.com subscribers.