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NFL: Panthers defeat Saints 17-13
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Charlotte, N.C. • There is a message stitched inside the collar of every Carolina Panthers jersey. Two powerful words.

Keep Pounding.

They were spoken by late linebacker Sam Mills during his fight with intestinal cancer, and served as a reminder to teammates and friends to never give up, no matter how dire the situation.

Cam Newton and the Panthers took them to heart Sunday.

Newton, who had struggled all afternoon, threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to lift the Panthers to a 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints and clinch the team's first playoff berth since 2008 before more than 70,000 rain-drenched fans.

Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.

Linebacker Thomas Davis addressed Mills' message before the game, and Newton said it was never more applicable than Sunday.

"That's about the best words you can put for the type of game we had," Newton said. "You know we just kept fighting, kept pounding, kept getting after it. We really knew we were one drive away. We were one play away."

Newton had been limited to 116 yards passing in the game's 59 minutes. But the defense, which had been dominant all day, gave him one last chance to win the game by forcing Drew Brees to go three-and-out.

"Cam was very resilient," coach Ron Rivera said. "He struggled all day and he knows that. But he came through when we needed him."

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly had 24 tackles — tying an NFL record — and an interception while building his case for Defensive Player of the Year.

It was a rough day all around for the Saints (10-5). The resilient Arizona Cardinals won at Seattle 17-10, so the Saints still are not playoff bound yet.

"They're a good pass rushing team," Brees said of Carolina. "They did a good job of applying the pressure at times." Panthers 17,Saints 13

New Orleans 0 6 0 7 — 13

Carolina 0 7 3 7 — 17

Second Quarter

NO • FG S.Graham 40, 10:49.

NO • FG S.Graham 24, 7:22.

Car • D.Williams 43 run (Gano kick), 1:45.

Third Quarter

Car • FG Gano 40, 7:21.

Fourth Quarter

NO • J.Graham 5 pass from Brees (S.Graham kick), 6:37.

Car • Hixon 14 pass from Newton (Gano kick), :23.

Attendance • 73,825.

NO Car

First downs 20 10

Total Net Yards 365 222

Rushes-yards 30-126 18-81

Passing 239 141

Punt Returns 4-30 2-20

Kickoff Returns 1-21 2-41

Interceptions Ret. 1-4 2-0

Comp-Att-Int 30-45-2 13-22-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 6-42 4-40

Punts 7-48.6 8-50.8

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0

Penalties-yards 4-40 3-26

Time of Possession 38:48 21:12

Individual Statistics

Rushing • New Orleans, Ingram 13-83, K.Robinson 6-18, Brees 1-9, Thomas 4-8, Collins 3-8, Stills 1-3, Sproles 1-2, Meachem 1-(minus 5). Carolina, D.Williams 12-67, Ginn Jr. 1-7, Newton 4-6, Tolbert 1-1.

Passing • New Orleans, Brees 30-44-2-281, McCown 0-1-0-0. Carolina, Newton 13-22-1-181.

Receiving • New Orleans, J.Graham 5-73, Colston 5-63, Thomas 5-7, Moore 3-47, Sproles 3-18, Watson 2-26, Stills 2-23, Meachem 2-14, Collins 2-3, Ingram 1-7. Carolina, Olsen 4-35, Ginn Jr. 2-66, Hixon 2-18, Tolbert 2-5, Smith 1-44, LaFell 1-13, D.Williams 1-0.

NFC South • Carolina perseveres to topple Saints in final minute.
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