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Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers seek path home for playoffs

By The Sports Xchange
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers seek path home for playoffs
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton reacts as he is introduced before a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in an NFL football game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, on January 3, 2016. File photo by Nell Redmond/UPI | License Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers went 6-2 at home during the regular season. By qualifying for the playoffs, they continued a trend of reaching the postseason every time they won at least six home games.

"Our fans deserved it," tight end Ed Dickson said. "We're going to keep pounding no matter what."

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However, unless the New Orleans Saints lose at Tampa Bay and the Panthers win at Atlanta, Caronia isn't likely to be at home during the playoffs. Without winning the division, Carolina could only be home if it faced the other wild-card team in the NFC championship game.

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The Panthers have figured out how to win close games this season and that's the biggest reason for their success.

"When we needed to drive the ball down, we did," coach Ron Rivera said.

The Panthers are 7-1 in games decided by seven points or less. They just completed a 3-0 homestand with all of those games falling into that category.

RELATED Carolina Panthers: Damiere Byrd headed to injured reserve

"There was no panicking," tight end Ed Dickson said of the winning drive against Tampa Bay. "We have been in those moments before."

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The go-ahead points against Tampa Bay coming in the final minute just added to the drama.

They came up big at the right time for us," Rivera said of the offense. "Cam Newton came up big for us finding the guys open down field."

RELATED Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers clinch playoff spot after win over Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Player notes:

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WR Damiere Byrd is lost for the season with a lower leg injury suffered against Tampa Bay early in the second half. He'll go on injured reserve, coach Ron Rivera said Tuesday. In the second quarter Sunday, he posted a franchise-record 103-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He also had the team's longest play from scrimmage in the game on a 31-yard pass play.

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LB Shaq Thompson returned after a two-game absence with a foot injury and played against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was credited with five tackles.

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DE Charles Johnson comes back from an NFL suspension and should be part of full practices this week leading to the regular-season finale.

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