Carolina sinks Saints, 17-13; Panthers take 1st in division

Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) runs past New Orleans Saints' Roman Harper (41) for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone) Show caption
Carolina Panthers' DeAngelo Williams (34) runs past New Orleans Saints' Roman Harper (41) for a touchdown in the first half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Dec. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left to give the team a 17-13 victory for first place in the NFC South

Carolina (11-4), which clinched a playoff berth, drove 65 yards on five plays in 32 seconds for the game-winning touchdown.

The Saints (10-5), who could have won the division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs, host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their final game of the regular season next Sunday. The Panthers play at the Atlanta Falcons.

With the Saints trailing 10-6, Brees threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Graham to give the team a 13-10 lead with 6:37 remaining. New Orleans drove 97 yards on 11 plays.

But prior to the score, the Saints found themselves trailing despite a strong start.

Newly-signed Saints placekicker Shayne Graham hit field goals of 40 and 24 yards to give the team a 6-0 lead in the second quarter. The second field goal was set up when the team recovered an onside kick.

But Carolina came back to take a 7-6 lead when DeAngelo Williams ran up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown with 1:45 left in the half. The score came one play after Brees threw his first interception of the game.

The Panthers increased their lead to 10-6 when Graham Gano hit a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter.