Cam Newton continued to prove he is worthy of being the NFL’s Most Valuable Player as he first led undefeated Carolina to a huge lead over the New York Giants and then took them 49 yards in seven plays to set up game-ending field goal in the Panthers’ 38-35 victory.
On a day when the Giants scored four second-half touchdowns to tie the game at 35-35 with 1:46 left, Newton was fantastic.
The Panthers quarterback completed 25 of 45 passes for 340 yards and five touchdowns. He also raced for a team-high 100 yards on the ground including a 10-yard scramble that set up Graham Gano’s winning 43-yard field goal. Carolina is now 14-0 but coach Ron Rivera has expressed an unwillingness to rest all his players to avoid an injury before the playoffs. With games at Atlanta and home against Tampa Bay, the Panthers have a good chance of being the second team ever to finish the regular season 16-0.
Buffalo 25-35 Washington
With two weeks left in the season the surprising leader in the NFC East is Washington and they might just be getting better. The return of receiver DeSean Jackson has helped revive a sagging offense. On Sunday he helped push Washington to a victory with several big catches including a 77-yard touchdown reception in which he grabbed an underthrown ball, cut by two defenders and raced into the end zone.
Washington quarterback, Kirk Cousins, has developed into a solid starter over recent weeks. Against Buffalo he threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns and nearly had a perfect passer rating, finishing at 153.7. The road to a division title might be difficult, though, Washington’s final two games are on the road at Philadelphia and arch-rival Dallas. Washington is 1-5 on the road this year.
Tennessee 16-33 New England
Marcus Mariota left the game as a precaution after injuring his right knee, but even if the Titans rookie quarterback had played the full afternoon it probably wouldn’t have helped Tennessee. Mariota’s replacement, Zach Mettenberger, played well enough, completing 20 of 28 passes for 242 yards passing, but he was also intercepted twice.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had a solid day, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns and Chandler Jones stripped Mariota of the ball as he leaned back to throw that Akiem Hicks recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
Chicago 17-38 Minnesota
After losing three of their last four games, the Vikings recovered to blast division rival Chicago. Minnesota had a scare midway though the game when star running back Adrian Peterson turned his ankle but the injury is not expected to be too serious. Even without Peterson, the Vikings were too much for the slumping Bears.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater threw four touchdown passes, two of them to receiver Stefon Diggs. Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler continues to struggle, completing just 26 of 37 passes while being sacked five times.
Kansas City 34-14 Baltimore
The Chiefs wild-card chances remain alive after a running over the Ravens on the road. Kansas City overwhelmed Baltimore by forcing the Ravens into three turnovers, one of which turned into a touchdown when Marcus Peters returned an interception 90 yards for a score. Alex Smith completed 21 of 25 passes for 171 yards for Kansas City who is now 9-5, same as the New York Jets who are in position for a wild-card berth as well.
Houston 16-10 Indianapolis
Jonathan Joseph forced a key fumble when he knocked the ball from Colts receiver Griff Whalen’s hands late in the game and the Texans won in Indianapolis for the first time in team history. The Texans moved into first place in the AFC South at 7-7, while dealing a blow to the Colts, who at 6-8 will likely need to beat the Dolphins and Titans to have a chance at winning the division.
Atlanta 23-17 Jacksonville
Atlanta salvaged its flickering playoff hopes for a week as they held on to beat the Jaguars on the road. Matt Ryan had a solid performance, throwing for 246 yards and a touchdown while Julio Jones had nine catches for 118 yards. The Falcons are 7-7 and still have a chance at a wild-card spot.
This article was written by Les Carpenter, for theguardian.com on Sunday 20th December 2015 22.01 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010