NFL DRAFT DIAMONDS

Carolina Panthers Pro-Bowlers lift them to the playoffs; Both Cam and Hardy go off in win

Today Cam Newton threw two touchdown passes, and defensive end Greg Hardy had a team-record four sacks and the Panthers clinched their first NFC South title in five years by beating the Atlanta Falcons 21-20 on Sunday.

Making their first trip to the playoffs since 2008, the Panthers (12-4) secured a first-round bye and home-field advantage for at least one game as the No. 2 seed in the NFC.

“Feels outstanding,” said Carolina coach Ron Rivera. “Our guys fought all season and did the things we needed to do.”

Newton said it was important to earn the bye in the playoffs. Wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Jonathan Stewart were inactive with knee injuries.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that we need back that play an intricate role in making this team go,” Newton said.

Both Newton and Hardy were selected to this year’s Pro Bowl and both were very well deserved.  The Panthers are rolling on all cylinders and they could be pretty hard to stop.

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