CHARLOTTE – One game played and you're a division champion.
Not too shabby for cornerback Cortland Finnegan, whose retirement ended when the Panthers signed him last week.
"That's pretty cool," Finnegan said with a laugh. "In 10 years of playing in the NFL I had only been a division champ one other time. I can't say how grateful I am to be a part of this."
Finnegan, used as a nickel corner, played 30 snaps (49 percent) in his debut against the Saints.
"I thought he did a solid job," defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said. "He had been with us for a week and I thought he executed fairly well in the scheme in terms of tackling, jamming the receivers and his effectiveness as a blitzer."
Finnegan finished with four tackles, the first of which came during his first snap as he brought down tight end Benjamin Watson for a third-down stop on New Orleans' first series. The physical corner said he was eager to get that first hit under his belt.
"That was the last thing I was worried about," Finnegan said of making that first long-awaited tackle. "I've been a hitter, a tackler my whole life. It was just seeing route concepts, progressions and the game slowing down. I just enjoyed it.
"I was able to tackle a little bit and I'll learn from my mistakes, because I made a few."
The same could be said for the entire team, who overcame miscues in all three phases during the 41-38 comeback victory.
But as they say, a win is a win, and the NFC South champions celebrated accordingly. Finnegan knows he was just a small part of making that division title possible, but in Carolina, every contributor to the cause, no matter the role, is meaningful.
Rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess went out of his way after the game to make sure Finnegan understood that.
"He said, 'Man, you are a part of this just as much as anybody,'" Finnegan recalled. "He didn't have to say that, but he did. I appreciated that. It's a family."