CHARLOTTE — Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to lift the Carolina Panthers to a 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints and clinch the team’s first playoff berth since 2008.
Carolina (11-4) can wrap up the NFC South and a first-round bye in the playoffs with a win next Sunday at Atlanta.
The Panthers intercepted Drew Brees twice and sacked him six times to avenge a 31-13 loss two weeks ago.
Still, the Panthers needed some last-minute big plays from Newton to seal the win. After being held to 116 yards passing for the game’s first 59 minutes, Newton led the Panthers 65 yards in 32 seconds for the go-ahead score.
The Saints (10-5) can still clinch a playoff berth if Arizona loses to Seattle.
New Orleans’ road woes persist. The Saints have dropped five of their last six games away from the Superdome.