NEW ORLEANS – Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers displayed composure in the clutch. That’s what unbeaten teams do.
Newton passed for five touchdowns, capped by a 15-yard scoring strike to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 to go, and the Panthers clinched the NFC South with a 41-38 victory over the Saints on Sunday.
“I expected us to win the football game,” Newton said, adding he wasn’t pleased by how tight the game got at the end against the reeling Saints (4-8), who’ve lost four straight. “We’ve got to find ways moving forward not to put ourselves in this position. This was a wakeup call for us. And moving forward, we know we can’t just win games by us showing up.”
Carolina, the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL, has the ninth 12-0 start in the Super Bowl era. The Panthers have won 16 straight regular-season games, a streak that began in the Superdome last season.
Newton, who was 28 of 41 for 331 yards, twice had to lead the Panthers back from fourth-quarter deficits.
“That is one of the things that we get out of this that we will certainly build on, that (Newton) was able to win a shootout and take a drive in the fourth quarter to give us a chance,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said after capturing his third successive division title. “It goes back to his whole development as a quarterback in this league. I am really proud of what he did and the confidence with which he played.”
Eagles 35, Patriots 28: In Foxborough, Massachusetts, Najee Goode scored on a blocked punt, Malcolm Jenkins returned an interception 99 yards for another touchdown and Philadelphia held on for an improbable victory.
Chiefs 34, Raiders 20: In Oakland, Jeremy Maclin had two touchdown catches after fourth-quarter interceptions and Tyvon Branch returned a third interception from Derek Carr for a game-clinching score against his former team as Kansas City rallied for its sixth straight win.
Broncos 17, Chargers 3: In San Diego, Brock Osweiler threw for one touchdown and Danny Trevathan intercepted Philip Rivers and returned it 25 yards for a score, leading the Broncos to a victory against the hapless Chargers.
49ers 26, Bears 20 (OT): In Chicago, Blaine Gabbert threw a 71-yard touchdown pass to Torrey Smith in overtime after running for the tying TD late in regulation.
Jets 23, Giants 20 (OT): In East Rutherford, New Jersey, Randy Bullock kicked a 31-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime to give the Jets a stunning win.
Seahawks 38, Vikings 7: In Minneapolis, Russell Wilson threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another, Seattle’s defense didn’t allow a score, and the surging Seahawks won their third straight game.
Bills 30, Texans 21: In Orchard Park, New York, Tyrod Taylor threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Charles Clay with 1:53 left to lead Buffalo over Houston.
Titans 42, Jaguars 39: In Nashville, Marcus Mariota scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 87-yard run midway through a wild fourth quarter, and the Titans edged Jacksonville to snap their 11-game home losing streak.
Bengals 37, Browns 3: In Cleveland, Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score and Cincinnati moved closer to a playoff berth and the AFC North title.
Buccaneers 23, Falcons 19: In Tampa, Jameis Winston threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans with 1:39 remaining to give the Buccaneers a victory over Atlanta.
Dolphins 15, Ravens 13: In Miami Gardens, Florida, the Dolphins 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.
Cardinals 27, Rams 3: In St. Louis, running backs David Johnson and Kerwynn Williams scored a touchdown apiece and Arizona stuffed St. Louis.
Steelers 45, Colts 10: In Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger threw for 364 yards and four touchdowns and the Steelers overwhelmed the Colts.