NEW ORLEANS // Unbeaten Carolina wrapped up the NFC South division title with a 41-38 win at New Orleans on Sunday, with Cam Newton finding Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 to go for his fifth touchdown pass of the game.
The Panthers improved to 12-0 – only the ninth team in NFL history to win their first dozen games – and became the first team to secure a division title.
The surprise result of the day came at New England, where the Patriots suffered a shock defeat at the hands of struggling Philadelphia, while other key games saw Seattle romp past Minnesota in a meeting of NFC playoff contenders, and Arizona improve to 10-2 with a convincing win at St. Louis.
Carolina quarterback Newton, who completed 28 of 41 passes for 331 yards, twice had to lead the Panthers back from fourth-quarter deficits to preserve the Panthers’ unbeaten record.
Jonathan Stewart had a 5-yard scoring run on a pitch from Newton.
New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns, while Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony returned a fumble 31 yards for a score and also became the first player in NFL history to return a blocked extra-point kick for 2 points.
Philadelphia raced out to a 21-point lead at New England and held on to beat the fast-finishing Patriots 35-28.
The Eagles came into the game with a 4-7 record and had given up 45 points apiece in consecutive weeks heading into a meeting with a Patriots team that had not lost back-to-back games since 2012, but pulled off a stunning result.
Read more NFL news:
[ Back-ups provide insurance in the NFL, but that policy does not always pay off ]
[ Perfect Patriots no more: CJ Anderson lifts Denver in OT victory over New England ]
Najee Goode scored on a blocked punt, Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception 99 yards for another touchdown and Darren Sproles returned a punt 83 yards as the Eagles special teams and defense put the visitors up by 21.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw for a touchdown and then, after an onside kick, ran it in from the 1 yard-line to cut the deficit to seven points with 3 minutes left.
New England’s second onside kick failed, but the Patriots (10-2) forced a third-down fumble to give Brady one more chance, but his receivers could not hold on to their subsequent chances.
A surging Seattle won a third straight game with a 38-7 victory at Minnesota.
Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another while the Seahawks’ defense didn’t allow a score.
Doug Baldwin had two touchdowns and 94 yards receiving and Thomas Rawls rushed for 101 yards.
Minnesota’s star running back Adrian Peterson was limited to 18 yards on eight carries, and the Vikings (8-4) got their only points from a kickoff return in the third quarter.
Arizona’s running backs David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams scored a touchdown apiece to lead the Cardinals to a 27-3 win at St. Louis.
Johnson, a rookie, had 99 yards on 22 carries in his first start and caught one of two TD passes by Carson Palmer, who led an offense that accrued 524 yards. Williams scored his first career TD on a 35-yard run.
The Cardinals (10-2) have won six in a row, and with a three-game lead in the NFC West, seem certain to win the division.
The Rams (4-8) have lost five in a row and have been outscored 58-10 over the past two.
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns as the Steelers overwhelmed Indianapolis 45-10.
Antonio Brown caught eight passes for 118 yards and two scores and also returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown for the Steelers (7-5), who started slowly but dominated the final three quarters.
Colts quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, standing in for Andrew Luck, threw for 169 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions before leaving in the fourth quarter because of neck and shoulder pain. The Colts remain tied with Houston for the lead in the AFC North.
Denver won 17-3 at hapless San Diego, with second-string quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing for one touchdown.
Osweiler improved to 3-0 since taking over for the injured Peyton Manning, while Danny Trevathan intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for a score.
It was potentially the penultimate Chargers game in San Diego, with the franchise eyeing a move to Los Angeles and the NFL telling the city of San Diego that it had until the end of this month to come up with plans for a new stadium or the Chargers would move.
Kansas City extended its winning streak to six games with a 34-20 victory at Oakland, aided by three fourth-quarter interceptions thrown by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr.
The New York Jets rallied from 10 points down with 4:24 to go and beat the crosstown Giants 23-20 in overtime, with Randy Bullock kicking a 31-yard field goal on the first possession of OT.
Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay with 1:53 left to lead the Bills to a 30-21 win against Houston, putting the two teams on 6-6 records in the AFC playoff race.
Cincinnati closed in on the AFC North title with a 37-3 win at a woeful Cleveland which has lost seven straight. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score.
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 1:39 remaining to give the Buccaneers a 23-19 victory over Atlanta.
San Francisco’s Blaine Gabbert threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in overtime after running for the tying TD late in regulation, lifting the struggling 49ers to a 26-20 win over Chicago.
Miami’s defense intercepted a pair of deflected passes from Matt Schaub to score two touchdowns 20 seconds apart late in the first half, and held on to beat Baltimore 15-13.
Tennessee ended an 11-game home losing skid by beating Jacksonville 42-39, with Marcus Mariota scoring the go-ahead touchdown on an 87-yard run midway through a frantic fourth quarter.
Follow us on Twitter @NatSportUAE