Cam Newton's finish offers Carolina Panthers hope for 2013

  • By Jim Reineking NFL.com
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It's tough to win on the road, and the proof is that only three visitors emerged victorious in the final week of regular-season play in 2012.

Greatest on the road ...

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers

Newton helped the Panthers put a valiant punctuation mark on what was a strong sprint to the finish this season. With a 44-38 win over the New Orleans Saints at the raucous Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Panthers finished the season with four consecutive victories and winning five of their last six games. After a 2-8 start to the season, the Panthers managed to finish 7-9 and offer a glimmer of hope that the team can legitimately contend in 2013.

Newton threw for 248 yards in the win, which is noteworthy in that the Panthers' quarterback now has the most passing yards in his first two seasons in NFL history. Newton's 7,920 yards topped Peyton Manning's 7,874 set in 1998-99.

Also considered:

Earl Bennett, Chicago Bears

In the first quarter of a must-win game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field, Bennett took a short pass from Jay Cutler and streaked down the sidelines for a 60-yard touchdown play that gave the Bears a lead they wouldn't relinquish in a 26-24 win.

Bennett finished the game with 109 yards receiving -- his second career 100-yard game -- and for a brief period of time on Sunday it appeared his efforts would help the Bears sneak into the playoffs. However, a 37-34 win for the Minnesota Vikings over the Green Bay Packers eliminated the Bears, and put a damper on a season that started with so much promise.

Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Atlanta Falcons might have locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but it was the Buccaneers who appeared more playoff-ready. With the Falcons playing their starters for the entire game, the Buccaneers emerged victorious 22-17 at the Georgia Dome.

Martin helped the Buccaneers halt any sort of momentum the Falcons had hoped to have entering the postseason. Martin finished the game with 142 yards rushing and a touchdown, which came on a powerful 40-yard burst through the Falcons defense en route to the end zone.

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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