Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't play favorites
A lot of NFL head coaches have a different standard for stars, subscribing to the philosophy of treating everyone equitably but not necessarily equally.
Ron Rivera is not among those coaches.
So, when reigning MVP Cam Newton boarded the team flight to Seattle without a dress shirt and necktie, Rivera decided to bench him for the first series Sunday night.
The flap became an overbearing cloud hanging over Seattle's 40-7 shellacking of the Panthers after Derek Anderson's single snap resulted in an interception.
Newton didn't express disagreement with Rivera's decision after the game, explaining he realized just before the buses left to take the team to the airport that he hadn't packed a shirt and tie.
''We discussed it internally. Me and coach, we're on the same page, I feel good about it,'' Newton said.
''I wore a similar outfit like this before and nothing was done. But he has rules in place and we have to abide by them and no person is greater than the next person.''
Rivera didn't announce his intention to punish his passer. Even after the game he wouldn't say anything beyond acknowledging his quarterback had committed a dress code violation.
Right tackle Trai Turner said he didn't know what was up until the opening play, which ended up being a pass that deflected off Mike Tolbert's hands and into the arms of linebacker Mike Morgan. That led to a Seattle field goal.
The oddity of it all is that Newton is as fashionable as any player in the league.
This is the guy who sported Zebra-print Versace pants on Super Bowl Sunday and who modeled nearly $30,000 worth of duds for his GQ photo shoot last summer, including $495 loafers, a $530 tank top, $1,200 sneakers and a $4,995 leather jacket.
And nary a necktie.
Aside from more than 500 players wearing custom cleats as part of the league's ''My Cleats, My Cause'' initiative, Week 13 featured an abundance of curious calls and dubious decisions.
Seattle star safety Earl Thomas broke his lower left leg when he collided with teammate Kam Chancellor as both tried to intercept a pass from Newton.
While in the locker room, Thomas tweeted , ''This game has been so good to me no regrets. A lot is running through my mind including retirement thanks for all the prayers.''
Dallas escaped Minnesota with a 17-15 win on Thursday night when no flag was thrown on the Cowboys for hitting Sam Bradford's facemask on his overthrown 2-point conversion attempt with 25 seconds left.
''I'm sick and tired of the reffing in this league right now,'' Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. ''I'm sick and tired of it. You've got holding calls all over the place that people don't want to call.
''Bradford gets hit in the face at the end of the game and you don't call it. I'm not laying this loss on reffing, but at some point it's got to get better.''
Officials can't see every infraction but it was astonishing that Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson got away with yanking the facemask of Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount right in front of an official.
After making the tackle, Johnson reached up and jerked Blount's facemask, but head linesman Ed Camp never reached for his flag.
''I cannot believe an official's sitting right there watching and he won't make the call,'' NBC analyst Rodney Harrison said.
Randall Cobb made a snow angel after scoring a touchdown in Green Bay's win over the Texans at Lambeau Field.
In Chicago, the 49ers were assessed a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty after rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson did a snow angel in the end zone because he mistakenly thought Dontae Johnson had scored on a blocked punt return, as did the rest of the 49ers.
Johnson also did a snow angel and his was legal because it was a single-person celebration - even though he'd actually stepped out at the 4.
Robinson's cost his team 15 yards, and the 49ers settled for a field goal on their way to extending their franchise-record losing streak to 11 games.
In Atlanta, the Falcons were burned by Eric Berry's pick-6, then were done in by their own strategy in a 29-28 loss to Kansas City.
After pulling within 27-22 with 12 minutes left, the Falcons went for 2 and failed.
So, when they went ahead 28-27 with 4:34 remaining, they had to go for 2, and Berry took it back 99 yards for the first game-winning pick-2 in NFL history .
''My dad, he always told me the most important part of the game is the extra point,'' Berry said. ''So, a lot of people take that play off and like I said, it's an opportunity to make something happen and I'm going to make the most of it.''
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
AP Sports Writer Jon Krawczynski contributed. Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton