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Cleveland at Carolina

Panthers beat Browns 17-13, move into first place

AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) The Carolina Panthers never quit on the season, and now have a chance to repeat as NFC South champions.

Cam Newton threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and the Panthers defeated the Cleveland Browns 17-13 on Sunday to take sole possession of first place in the division.

The victory sets up a winner-take-all showdown next Sunday at Atlanta between the Panthers (6-8-1) and Falcons (6-9) for the division title. It also guarantees a team without even a .500 record will win the NFC South.

The winner will join the 2010 Seattle Seahawks as the only teams to reach the postseason in a non-strike-shortened season with a losing record.

''Now it all comes down to one game and that's all we can ask for is to be in that situation,'' Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

The Panthers have now won three straight after going more than two months without a victory. The Browns (7-8) were eliminated from contention when San Diego beat San Francisco on Saturday.

Newton threw for 201 yards and ran for 63 just 12 days after the quarterback suffered two fractures in his lower back following an automobile accident. Jonathan Stewart ran for 122 yards and caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Newton.

''It speaks to his toughness,'' Rivera said of Newton.

Johnny Manziel made his second NFL start for Cleveland, left with 1:49 left in the first half with a hamstring injury and did not return.

The Panthers led most of the game before Browns tight end Jordan Cameron got behind the secondary and hauled in an 81-yard touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer. That gave Cleveland its first lead of the game at 13-10 with about 10 minutes remaining.

The Browns had just 126 yards on offense before that play and just 228 yards all afternoon.

But Newton, looking healthy and mobile in escaping from the pocket, drove the Panthers back downfield. He completed a 9-yard pass to Stewart, who slipped out of the backfield untouched and found an open pocket in the end zone.

Carolina appeared to seal the game when cornerback Josh Norman intercepted a deep Hoyer pass on Cleveland's next possession. But the flamboyant cornerback returned the ball, holding it away from his body with one hand, and fumbled it back to the Browns when hit from behind.

That gave the Browns one last shot.

But Carolina's defense held, with Kawann Short coming up with a big sack on Hoyer, and Thomas Davis making an open field tackle to force a punt with less than four minutes remaining.

Carolina put the game away when Stewart broke off a 30-yard run on third-and-6.

The Panthers led 10-3 at halftime behind a 2-yard run by Newton on a bootleg late in the second quarter. Newton faked a handoff to Mike Tolbert and followed a key block by tight end Greg Olsen into the end zone.

A few minutes later Manziel sprinted out to his left. Linebacker Luke Kuechly and safety Colin Jones converged on Manziel, taking him to the ground for a 1-yard loss. Manziel attempted to get up, then fell back to the ground.

He finished 3 of 8 for 32 yards. He also ran twice for 3 yards.

Hoyer was 7 of 13 for 134 yards with one touchdown and one interception.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC is strictly prohibited.
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Sun. Dec. 21Final
Pass: B. Hoyer (7-13, 134) C. Newton (18-31, 201)
Rush: I. Crowell (16-55) J. Stewart (24-122)
Rec: J. Cameron (3-88) K. Benjamin (5-47)
Scoring Summary
FGGraham Gano makes 23 yard kick. Drive: 14 plays, 77 yards in 6:25.
FGGarrett Hartley makes 43 yard kick. Drive: 10 plays, 55 yards in 4:22.
TDCam Newton runs for 2 yards (Graham Gano kick is good). Drive: 12 plays, 57 yards in 6:26.
FGGarrett Hartley makes 31 yard kick. Drive: 9 plays, 43 yards in 5:06.
TDJordan Cameron catches a 81 yard pass from Brian Hoyer (Garrett Hartley kick is good). Drive: 3 plays, 85 yards in 1:23.
TDJonathan Stewart catches a 9 yard pass from Cam Newton (Graham Gano kick is good). Drive: 7 plays, 66 yards in 2:52.

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Players of the Game

J. Stewart
Rush 24
Yds 122
Avg 5.1
TD 0

J. Cameron
Rec 3
Yds 88
Avg 29.3
TD 1
B. Hoyer7/1313411
J. Manziel3/83200
I. Crowell1655026
B. Hoyer219011
A. Hawkins2705
J. Manziel2304
J. Cameron388181
J. Gordon445018
A. Hawkins128028
J. Dray1404
T. Gabriel1101
T. Benjamin0000
C. Newton18/3120111
J. Stewart24122030
C. Newton1263115
M. Tolbert71908
F. Whittaker1505
P. Brown1000
K. Benjamin547018
J. Cotchery546018
E. Dickson244034
P. Brown222012
G. Olsen121021
B. Bersin114014
J. Stewart2719
M. Tolbert0000
Complete Player Stats
Other Games
TEN 13 Final
JAC 21
PHI 24 Final
WAS 27
SD 38 Final
SF 35
DET 20 Final
CHI 14
BAL 13 Final
HOU 25
MIN 35 Final
MIA 37
ATL 30 Final
NO 14
NE 17 Final
NYJ 16
KC 12 Final
PIT 20
GB 20 Final
TB 3
NYG 37 Final
STL 27
IND 7 Final
DAL 42
BUF 24 Final
OAK 26
SEA 35 Final
DEN 28 Final
CIN 37