CHARLOTTE – The Panthers aren't playing for draft position.
And for a change, they stitched together enough moments of competence to win a football game.
Carolina made Washington wait for a chance to clinch the NFC East title with a 20-13 road win.
The Panthers had lost eight of their last nine games for many reasons, and there were hints of those reasons evident Sunday. But they did enough to win against a team that was ostensibly trying.
The Football Team could have wrapped up a playoff spot, but they looked like a team that was rebuilding (and honestly, they still are). They turned the ball over six times, including four in the first half alone.
Quarterback Dwayne Haskins was not good, in a week during which he was fined and stripped of his team captaincy for violating COVID protocols.
Haskins was 14-of-28 for 154 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble, and was pulled for former Panthers backup Taylor Heinicke in the fourth quarter.
Improving to 5-10 won't get the Panthers into playoff contention, and it might drop them a few spots in the draft order. But head coach Matt Rhule has preached for weeks that he wants his team to learn how to win games in December, and this was at least a start.
They're still far from where they need to be. But for a day, it was the kind of object lesson Rhule needs to make sure people remember that process matters when the results aren't there.
Pending unrestricted free agent made the most of a little more national attention, with another standout performance.
Samuel finished the game with a career highs in rushing (52), receiving (106) and scrimmage yards (158).
He also had a career-best 45-yard rush, the longest run of the year for the Panthers (eclipsing the 28-yarder by Jeremy Chinn on a fake punt against the Falcons).
All that could be pricing him out of a return to Carolina, but Samuel has proven his value this year, on a team which also features a pair of 1,000-yard receivers.
YOUNG MAKES HIS CASE
Washington defensive end Chase Young was already the favorite to win defensive rookie of the year, and Sunday's game likely cemented that.
Young had a strip-sack-fumble, and forced an interception by hitting Teddy Bridgewater's arm (which was initially ruled a fumble by the scorers in Washington, despite the fact the ball flew downfield and was caught in mid-air).
Chinn's had a very good season, but even in a losing effort, the higher draft pick and bigger name showed why he's likely going to take the award.
DEPTH AN ISSUE
Trent Scott started for injured left tackle Russell Okung again, but Scott wasn't able to finish the game.
He left with a shoulder injury and didn't return. Michael Schofield replaced him at left tackle and struggled with Young.
The Panthers are thin on the offensive line, and there's not enough time to bring in reinforcements, so things could be interesting up front for the finale next week against the Saints.
View game action photos of Carolina's Week 16 game at Washington.