Cam Newton powers Panthers while Steelers and Packers clinch NFL play-off berths
LOS ANGELES // Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who suffered two fractures in his back in a car crash just 12 days ago, led the Panthers to a 17-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.
Newton’s nine-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Stewart in the final quarter put the Panthers over the top.
Carolina’s win now sets the stage for a winner-take-all NFC South division showdown on the final week of the National Football League’s regular season.
Newton’s health was the biggest concern for the Panthers heading into Sunday’s contest with the Browns. The star quarterback was injured in a two-car smash on December 9 near the Panthers’ practice facility.
Newton, who missed last weekend’s game, said he was lucky to have survived the accident. Newton was out of the hospital and back at training just a couple of days later.
“We knew he was healthy enough,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
“The training staff and the doctors were positive about it. He was trying to tell me all week he was fine.”
The winning strike to Stewart capped a seven-play, 66-yard drive and came less than three minutes after the Browns took their first lead on Brian Hoyer’s 81-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Cameron.
Hoyer replaced Johnny Manziel late in the first half after the rookie left the game and did not return with a hamstring injury.
The Panthers will travel to Atlanta next week with the division on the line. The winner of that game will not only clinch the NFC South, but will also host a playoff game.
Falcons 30, Saints 14
NEW ORLEANS // Julio Jones returned from a hip injury to catch seven passes for 107 yards, and the Falcons remained in playoff contention. Matt Ryan completed 30 of 40 passed for 322 yards and a touchdown, and Devonta Freeman ran for a 31-yard score for Atlanta (6-9), which can win the NFC South by beating Carolina next week. The Saints (6-9), who committed three turnovers in the fourth quarter, lost their fifth straight at home and were eliminated.
Cowboys 42 Colts 7
ARLINGTON, Texas // Dallas ended a four-year playoff drought in a dominating victory over the Indianapolis Colts, with Tony Romo throwing four touchdown passes and breaking Troy Aikman’s franchise record for yards passing. The Cowboys (11-4) emphatically ended a three-game home losing streak, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions. The Colts (10-5) didn’t have much to play for with the AFC South title secured, and looked like it while barely avoiding their first shutout loss in 21 years.
Seahawks 35, Cardinals 6
GLENDALE, Ariz. // Russell Wilson threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, Seattle set a franchise record with 596 yards of offense and the streaking Seahawks closed in on another NFC West title. Seattle (11-4) moved into a tie with Arizona (11-4) for first in the NFC West and the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker by virtue of two wins over the Cardinals. Both already have clinched playoff berths.
Steelers 20, Chiefs 12
PITTSBURGH // Ben Roethlisberger passed for 220 yards and a touchdown, Le’Veon Bell added a score and the Steelers locked up a postseason berth. Pittsburgh (10-5) faces Cincinnati next week for the AFC North title. Either way, the Steelers will be playing January football for the first time since Tim Tebow and Denver stunned the defending AFC champions in the wild-card round three years ago.
Packers 20, Buccaneers 3
TAMPA, Fla. // Aaron Rodgers threw for 318 yards and one touchdown to help the Packers clinch a wild-card playoff berth. Eddie Lacy scored on a 44-yard run, Jordy Nelson caught a 1-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter and had nine receptions for 113 yards, while Randall Cobb finished with 11 catches for 131 yards.
Patriots 17, Jets 16
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. // Jonas Gray scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter after the Patriots intercepted Geno Smith, and New England clinched a first-round playoff bye. Tom Brady threw a 3-yard TD pass to Rob Gronkowski for the Patriots (12-3), who could earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs if Denver loses at Cincinnati on Monday night.
Lions 20, Bears 14
CHICAGO // Joique Bell scored the go-ahead touchdown on a sweet run in the fourth quarter, and Ndamukong Suh had two sacks. Calvin Johnson added six catches for 103 yards for Detroit (11-4), which came away with a narrow victory over a struggling team after locking up its second trip to the postseason in 15 years. The Bears (5-10) benched quarterback Jay Cutler this week in favor of the undistinguished Clausen.
Texans 25, Ravens 13
HOUSTON // Running back Arian Foster threw a touchdown pass, Randy Bullock made a franchise-record six field goals and Houston’s defense dominated to keep slim playoff hopes alive. The Ravens (9-6) now need some help next week to get into the postseason after Joe Flacco threw a season-high three interceptions and the offense struggled all day.
Raiders 26, Bills 24
OAKLAND, Calif. // Derek Carr threw two touchdown passes and Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals to help the Raiders knock the Bills from playoff contention. The Bills (8-7) needed to win their final two games and get some help to end the NFL’s longest active playoff drought at 14 seasons. But they failed at the easiest part, beating the lowly Raiders (3-12), and will miss the playoffs for a 15th straight season.
Dolphins 37, Vikings 35
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. // Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, buoyed by a thrilling comeback win, said Joe Philbin will return as coach next season. Rookie Terrence Fede blocked a punt for a safety with 41 seconds left, and Ryan Tannehill threw four touchdown passes. The Dolphins overcame a 14-0 deficit to take the lead, but trailed again after giving up 15 points in an 11-second span in the fourth quarter.
Rams 37, Giants 27
ST. LOUIS // Odell Beckham Jr. caught two touchdown passes and rolled up 148 yards receiving against a defense that hadn’t allowed a TD in three straight games. Beckham set a franchise rookie record with his 10th and 11th TD catches, shattered another rookie mark for receptions and topped 1,000 yards while shrugging off a pair of late hits in the second quarter. The second led to a brawl and three ejections, none of them to starters.
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Published: December 22, 2014 04:00 AM