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Panthers claw way to win over Saints and playoff spot

Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan
Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked by New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan

(Reuters) - Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton engineered a last gasp touchdown drive to clinch a thrilling 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints and the Panthers' first trip in the National Football League playoffs since 2008 on Sunday.

After Drew Brees had marched New Orleans 97 yards, hitting Jimmy Graham for a go ahead touchdown, Newton went right to work to keep the Saints from clinching the NFC South division crown and a first round playoff bye.

With 55 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts, Newton took the Panthers 65 yards on five plays hitting Domenik Hixon with a 14-yard touchdown strike to stun the Saints and send the sellout Charlotte crowd into wild celebration.

While the Panthers improved to 11-4 and can wrap up the division with a win in the season finale next week the Saints slipped to 10-5 but could still clinch a post-season berth depending on other Sunday results.

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto, editing by Gene Cherry)

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