Cam Newton stars again as Carolina Panthers rip Atlanta Falcons apart

Quarterback Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and his Carolina Panthers pummelled the Atlanta Falcons 38-0 on Sunday to earn an NFL playoff first-round bye.

Cam Newton stars again as Carolina Panthers rip Atlanta Falcons apart

With a 10th straight home win, the Panthers extended their club-best season start to 13-0.

They moved a step closer to securing home field advantage throughout the post-season, and will be able to rest up during the first week of the National Football Conference playoffs thanks to the bye.

Against a Falcons team in free-fall, Newton connected on two first-half touchdown passes to wide receiver Ted Ginn jnr.

Carolina’s 260 total yards in the first quarter marked a club record for any quarter.

“It was important for us to come out fast and get touchdowns instead of field goals,” said Newton, whose team had clinched the NFC South division title last week with a narrow win at New Orleans.

Bolstering his Most Valuable Player credentials, Newton completed 15 of 21 passes for 265 yards before he was replaced by backup Derek Anderson late in the third quarter with the Panthers up 38-0.

The Panthers’ bid for a perfect regular season continues with games at the New York Giants, at Atlanta and at home to Tampa Bay.

Although they dealt the Falcons their first shut-out loss since a 27-0 defeat at Tampa Bay in December of 2004, it wasn’t all good news for the Panthers.

Leading rusher Jonathan Stewart — who ran for a touchdown as the Panthers scored on their first three possessions — left the game with a possible sprained foot and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen hurt a knee.

Although Olsen was tested for a torn ligament, coach Ron Rivera indicated his injury was thought to be minor.

Injuries were an even bigger concern for another playoff contender as the Cincinnati Bengals lost quarterback Andy Dalton to a broken thumb in the second quarter of a 33-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dalton will miss at least one game and perhaps two.

His injury, and a concussion that knocked tight end Tyler Eifert out of the game, were a blow to the Bengals’ hopes of securing the top seed in the American Football Conference.

With the defeat, the Bengals fell to 10-3, failing to clinch the AFC North division title.

The Seattle Seahawks kept their hopes of reaching a third straight Super Bowl alive with a convincing 35-6 win over the Ravens in Baltimore.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw five touchdown passes, but Seattle lost running back Thomas Rawls to a season-ending broken ankle.

The injury brought an abrupt end to a stellar rookie campaign in which Rawls had 830 yards and four touchdowns filling in for injured starter Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch could be back in three weeks after surgery for a sports hernia — which would coincided with the wild card round of the playoffs.

In Philadelphia, the Eagles spoiled LeSean McCoy’s homecoming, beating the Buffalo Bills 23-20 to stay tied for first place in the NFC East with the Washington Redskins — 24-21 winners over the Chicago Bears.

The Kansas City Chiefs stretched their winning streak to seven games with a 10-3 victory over the San Diego Chargers. The Chiefs improved to 8-5 and lead the chase for an AFC wild-card berth.

But the New York Jets kept themselves well in the AFC wild-card hunt with a 30-8 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

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