NEW ORLEANS - Drew Brees passed for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints held off Carolina's late comeback bid to seal a 31-26 victory in their NFC wild-card game on Sunday.
The Panthers had a first down on the Saints 26-yard line with 58 seconds left, but heavy pressure by All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan a couple plays later induced an intentional grounding penalty on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, making it third-and-25 on the Saints 34 and a required 10-second runoff left 22 seconds on the clock.
After an incompletion in the end zone on third down, Vonn Bell sacked Newton on a safety blitz, ensuring the Saints (12-5) swept all three meetings with Carolina (11-6) this season, in addition to winning their first playoff game in four seasons.
"We wanted it more," Jordan said. "I mean they've been to their Super Bowl, let `em go to another one next year. We want our run."
Brees' touchdowns went for 80-yards to Ted Ginn and 9 yards to tight end Josh Hill. Fullback Zach line and running back Alvin Kamara each ran for short touchdowns, the latter set up by Michael Thomas 46-yard reception.
Thomas caught eight passes for 131 yards on a day when the Saints needed the passing game to compensate for a ground game that struggled to get going.
Helped by the presence of tight end Greg Olsen -- who did not play in the teams' previous two meetings -- Newton marched Carolina into Saints territory more often than not. But the Panthers stalled four times from inside the New Orleans 25, settling for four field goal attempts on those drives, one of which kicker Graham Gano surprisingly missed (see full recap).
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Jaguars beat Bills in ugly, sometimes unwatchable game
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Blake Bortles put together one decent drive all day, doing as much with his legs as his arm, and the defensive-minded Jacksonville Jaguars eked out an ugly and sometimes unwatchable 10-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills in an AFC wild-card game Sunday.
In the postseason for the first time since January 2008, the third-seeded Jaguars (11-6) advanced to play at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh next week.
The sixth-seeded Bills (9-8) will head home after ending the longest, current playoff drought in North American professional sports.
Bortles was a big reason Jacksonville won the game and a big reason it was so close.
This was far from a passing clinic. It was more like a painful exercise in overcoming poor passing.
Bortles was off most of the day, misfiring short and long, but made up for it with 88 yards rushing. He scrambled for a long first down run after fumbling the ball late, prompting a Bills assistant to slam a clipboard and eliciting a huge grin from Bortles (see full story).