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Cam Newton's signature moment gets team in playoffs

Sean Payton dared Cam Newton to beat the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Newton obliged.

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NFL Replay
will re-air the Carolina Panthers' 17-13 win over the New Orleans Saints from Week 16 on Tuesday, Dec. 24 at 2 p.m. ET.

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After a sluggish start to the day, Newton piloted Carolina on a 65-yard touchdown drive in the final minute of the game to steal control of the NFC South with a 17-13 victory. The Panthers' entire five-play drive took 32 seconds. 

Here's what we learned after Newton's signature moment of his young career:

1. Payton had too much faith in his defense and not enough faith in Drew Brees. The Saints got the ball back with under two minutes to go, needing only one first down to win the game. Payton decided to call three straight runs into the line of scrimmage. Carolina burned their last two timeouts and got the ball back with just under one minute remaining. Newton did the rest.

2. This is the second time this season that Payton was too conservative at the end of a game. His decision to run the ball too often late in the game cost him in New England, too. If you have Drew Brees and the chance to win the game, don't you give him a chance to pull it off?

3. Payton wasn't timid the whole game. He called for a successful onside kick in the first half and an unsuccessful fake field goal on fourth-and-12.

4. Of course, the game-ending sequence is on Rob Ryan's defense, too. They gave up big plays at the worst possible time.

5. The victory means that the Panthers officially are in the playoffs. They win the NFC South and get a playoff bye if they win in Atlanta next week. The Saints still haven't even clinched a playoff spot and looked headed for a wild card.

6. Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis had incredible interceptions for the Panthers. Their ability to pursue in run support and make plays in coverage makes them as versatile as any linebacker duo in the league. Kuechly doesn't have my Defensive Player of the Year vote, but he probably won some support Sunday with an unbelievable performance. He had 24 tackles. 24!

7. There were pivotal injury repercussions from the game. Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro broke his ankle, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith left with a knee injury and did not return.

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