NFL Wire News

Panthers 17, Browns 13


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers moved to the verge of a playoff spot as Cam Newton’s 9-yard touchdown pass to running back Jonathan Stewart with 7:07 remaining propelled them to a 17-13 victory against the Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium.

The first-place Panthers (6-8-1) can win the NFC South by avenging a loss to the Atlanta Falcons in next week’s finale in Atlanta.

Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel left late in the first half with an injury and that left Newton, who is also a Heisman Trophy winner, as the player to come up with a clutch play.

Newton, who returned after a one-game absence with a back injury suffered in a Dec. 9 automobile wreck, completed 18 of 31 passes for 201 yards with one interception.

Cleveland (7-8) lost its fourth game in a row.

The Browns snatched a 13-10 lead on Brian Hoyer’s 81-yard pass play to tight end Jordan Cameron with 9:59 left. It also marked Cleveland’s first touchdown in nine quarters.

Carolina bounced back with a go-ahead, seven-play drive of 66 yards that consumed less than three minutes.

On the first play after Carolina took a 17-13 lead, Panthers cornerback Josh Norman intercepted an underthrown Hoyer pass. But he fumbled it back on a play that netted Cleveland 9 yards.

After gaining a first down at the Carolina 47, the Browns lost yards on back-to-back plays and ended up punting. Carolina kept the ball the rest of the game.

Stewart rushed for 122 yards on 24 carries, including a game-clinching first-down pickup of 30 yards.

Garrett Hartley kicked field goals of 43 and 31 yards for the Browns. Hoyer completed 7 of 13 tosses for 134 yards.

The Browns were within 10-6 late in the third quarter after defensive lineman Billy Winn’s interception of Newton’s pass at the Browns 44 preceded a Cleveland field goal.

Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, departed with a first-half hamstring injury. He was making his second career NFL start, and his first away from home.

Manziel, carrying the ball on what looked like a designed scramble, was drilled by Carolina safety Colin Jones and linebacker Luke Kuechly has he was running out of bounds at the 19-yard line.

He took a 1-yard loss on the play, which occurred with 1:49 remaining in the first half.

Manziel was helped to the Browns sideline. Then he headed for additional treatment with a towel draped over his head as he went up a stadium tunnel.

Manziel completed 3 of 8 passes for 32 yards. He had two carries for 3 yards.

The Panthers built a 10-3 lead, with Newton’s 2-yard, third-down keeper with 1:55 remaining in the first half.

The highlight of the 12-play drive was a leaping catch by wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin on third down for 18 yards.

Any questions about Newton’s condition should have been answered when he carried the ball for two first downs among the game’s first three snaps.

That drive ended with Graham Gano’s wide-right field goal from 49 yards out. Gano connected from 23 yards out on the next possession as Carolina took a 3-0 lead with the 14-play march.

Cleveland answered with Hartley’s 43-yard field goal with 13:25 left in the second quarter, marking the first scoring drive orchestrated by Manziel in five-plus quarters as an NFL starter.

NOTES: Cleveland had not visited Charlotte since losing 20-12 in 2006. … The Panthers opened the game with seven rookie starters, the most in franchise history. … Panthers LB A.J. Klein (knee), who was limping at times a week earlier, was on the game’s inactive list and replaced in the starting unit by rookie LB Adarius Glanton. … Browns DB Tashaun Gipson was placed on injured reserve. … FB Mike Tolbert was named Carolina’s winner of the Good Guy Award for cooperation with media throughout the season. … Cleveland finishes the season next week at Baltimore.

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