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Panthers cement playoff bye

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POSTED December 13, 2015 10:09 p.m.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton added to his MVP resume, completing 15 of 21 passes for 265 yards and three touchdowns, and the unbeaten Carolina Panthers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 38-0 on Sunday to clinch a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs.

Newton connected on scoring strikes of 74 and 46 yards to Ted Ginn Jr., and Jonathan Stewart ran for a touchdown as the Panthers (13-0) scored on their first three possessions.

Newton also threw a 4-yard TD pass to Ed Dickson in the final seconds of the first half before leaving for good at the end of the third quarter with Carolina up 38. He finished with a career-high quarterback rating of 153.3, and the Panthers won their 17th straight regular-season game.

PATRIOTS 27, TEXANS 6

HOUSTON (AP) — Tom Brady threw for 226 yards and two touchdowns and the New England Patriots snapped a two-game skid to clinch a playoff spot.

Brady threw TD passes to Keshawn Martin and Rob Gronkowski in the first half to help New England build a 17-6 lead.

The Patriots didn’t move the ball as well in the second half, but the defense harassed Brian Hoyer into multiple mistakes. Jabaal Sheard had strip sacks on Hoyer twice after halftime. The Patriots recovered the second one early in the fourth, and James White made it 27-6 with a 2-yard run three plays later.

Hoyer was sacked five times and left the game to be evaluated for a concussion with about 9 minutes remaining. The quarterback already missed a game this season after getting a concussion on Nov. 16.

STEELERS 33,

BENGALS 20

CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton broke his right thumb while making a tackle on an interception, and the Steelers roughed up backup AJ McCarron while pulling away to a victory that left the AFC North up for grabs.

The Steelers (8-5) rumbled with the Bengals during pregame warmups and then led the whole way, sending Cincinnati (10-3) to its first lopsided loss of the season.

William Gay returned one of McCarron’s passes 23 yards for a touchdown, and Ben Roethlisberger had another good day as Pittsburgh’s resurgent offense kept rolling. Pittsburgh has scored 30 points in five straight games, a franchise record.

The game — and potentially Cincinnati’s season — turned on one interception. Stephon Truitt picked off Dalton’s shovel pass in the first quarter, and the quarterback broke his right thumb while making the tackle. It’s unclear how many weeks he’ll miss.

PACKERS 28,

COWBOYS 7

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Eddie Lacy ran for 124 yards and a touchdown, while fellow running back James Starks added two scores.

The Packers (9-4) have a one-game lead in the NFC North over Minnesota after their second straight victory.

With 435 yards and 29 first downs, Green Bay got better production out of its inconsistent offense with coach Mike McCarthy assuming play-calling duties again.

The Packers were still hampered at times by penalties and problems in short-yardage situations.

But the defense and running game came up with big plays in the fourth quarter. Dallas’ touchdown came on Robert Turbin’s 7-yard run midway through the third quarter to make it 14-7.

The Cowboys (4-9) suffered a setback to their chances of winning the mediocre NFC East.

SEAHAWKS 35,

RAVENS 6

BALTIMORE (AP) — Russell Wilson threw five touchdown passes, three to Doug Baldwin, against the injury-depleted Ravens.

Wilson went 23 for 32 for 292 yards. The five TD throws matched a career high — set earlier this season against Pittsburgh — and gave him 16 over his last four games.

Baldwin scored on passes of 14, 22 and 16 yards. Tyler Lockett caught TD throws of 8 and 49 yards.

Seattle’s second-ranked defense backed Wilson by keeping the Ravens (4-9) out of the end zone, forcing two turnovers and allowing only 28 yards rushing.

The Seahawks (8-5) have won six of seven to move into position for an NFC wild card.

EAGLES 23, BILLS 20

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Caleb Sturgis kicked a 30-yard field goal with 3:26 left, then Ed Reynolds intercepted Tyrod Taylor’s pass in the final minutes.

LeSean McCoy had 74 yards rushing and 35 receiving in his return to Philadelphia. He kissed the Eagles logo at midfield before the coin toss, but ran off the field immediately after the game.

McCoy never approached Chip Kelly. He said last week he didn’t want to shake Kelly’s hand or talk to the man who traded him.

The Eagles (6-7) and Redskins (6-7) are tied atop the NFC East standings. The New York Giants (5-7) could make it a three-way tie with a win at Miami on Monday night.

The Bills (6-7) fell two games behind in the AFC wild-card race.

Taylor’s streak of 222 passes without a pick ended when his deep pass went right to Reynolds with 1:16 remaining.

REDSKINS 24, BEARS 21

CHICAGO (AP) — Kirk Cousins threw for 300 yards and a touchdown and the Redskins hung on to beat the Bears after Chicago’s Robbie Gould missed yet another late field goal.

Washington, which came in tied with Philadelphia and the Giants for the NFC East lead, went ahead early in the fourth quarter on Dustin Hopkins’ 47-yard field goal. The Redskins (6-7) broke a nine-game road losing streak dating to last season.

The Bears (5-8) were in position to score after Jay Cutler hit Alshon Jeffery with a 50-yard pass that put the ball on the Washington 35. The usually reliable Gould, who missed the potential winner at the end of regulation in last week’s overtime loss to San Francisco, got a chance to redeem himself.

His 50-yard attempt wasn’t even close as it sailed wide right.

JAGUARS 51, COLTS 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Blake Bortles threw for three touchdowns and ran for a score — all in the second half — and the Jaguars ended the Colts’ 16-game winning streak in the AFC South.

The Jaguars (5-8) scored on offense, defense and special teams in the same game for the first time since 2011, the franchise’s most complete game under third-year coach Gus Bradley.

It helped Jacksonville gain ground in the muddled division, at least on the Colts (6-7).

Indianapolis’ division streak was the longest in NFL history. The Colts’ previous loss against the AFC South came on Dec. 16, 2012, at Houston.

CHIEFS 10,

CHARGERS 3

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs kept San Diego out of the end zone twice in the final seconds for their seventh consecutive win.

Alex Smith threw for 191 yards and a touchdown, along with his first interception after a franchise-record 312 attempts. But it was a banged-up defense that held San Diego without a touchdown for the second time this season that allowed the Chiefs (8-5) to escape.

The Chargers (3-10) took over at their 11 with 5 minutes left and quickly moved into Kansas City territory, converting fourth down three times. But after San Diego was called for delay of game at the Chiefs 1 with 5 seconds left, Philip Rivers threw incomplete into the end zone.

San Diego still had 2 seconds left, and an incomplete pass that would have ended the game was blown dead for a false start. With the ball pushed back to the 11-yard line, Rivers scrambled to his right and threw to the end zone, where his pass final pass fell incomplete.

The Chiefs spilled onto the field to celebrate another big win in their playoff chase.

JETS 30, TITANS 8

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three touchdown passes and New York’s stingy defense stifled Marcus Mariota and the Titans’ offense for most of the game.

Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Bilal Powell each caught TD passes for the Jets (8-5), who stayed on track in the AFC playoff race with their first three-game winning streak since 2011.

Fitzpatrick, who has set a single-season career high with 25 touchdown throws, finished 21 of 36 for 263 yards. Chris Ivory ran for 101 yards on 22 carries, and Randy Bullock kicked three field goals. Muhammad Wilkerson had three sacks..

SAINTS 24,

BUCCANEERS 17

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Drew Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes to Marques Colston and the Saints stopped a four-game losing streak,

Brees completed 31 of 41 passes for 312 yards without an interception. Colston scored on receptions of 1 and 3 yards in the first half, and Tim Hightower added a 3-yard TD run in the third quarter for the Saints (5-8).

The loss was the second in three games for the Bucs (6-7), whose hopes to make a run at a NFC wild card took a hit.

RAMS 21, LIONS 14

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Todd Gurley ran for 140 yards and two second-half touchdowns, and the Rams ended a five-game losing streak.

Trumaine Johnson’s 58-yard interception return for St. Louis (5-8) was the only score in the first half, plus he did most of the work holding Calvin Johnson to a late 16-yard catch. Aaron Donald had three sacks of Matthew Stafford to further boost a defense that had sagged in recent weeks.

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