The Panthers finally got the sour taste out of their mouths, snapping a seven-game slide by cruising past the rival Saints on Sunday at the Superdome.
With Cam Newton and Drew Brees watching from the sideline, rookie quarterback Kyle Allen led the Panthers to a 33-14 victory to wrap up the Panthers' 2018 season at 7-9. The triumph ended the longest losing streak in the Ron Rivera era and ended five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil's 12-year career.
Carolina's win, combined with the Falcons' last-second victory over the Buccaneers, means the Panthers finish third in the NFC South behind the Saints and Falcons. Here's who the Panthers will play in 2019 in light of Sunday's outcomes.
New Orleans rested Brees, running back Alvin Kamara and others with the top seed in the NFC playoffs already in hand. Kalil played the entire game.
Allen was amazing
The Saints did play their top-line defenders for much of the game, and Allen simply sparkled. The undrafted rookie. filling in for Newton/Taylor Heinicke. led Carolina to scores on all four of its first-half possessions to forge a 23-0 lead.
Allen completed 4-of-6 passes for 61 yards on the opening drive, denied his first touchdown pass by a replay review but picking up his first rushing touchdown instead. His second drive was capped by CAP – a 15-yard touchdown run by Cameron Artis-Payne – then Allen got his first career TD pass on a beauty of a ball to rookie tight end from 8 yards out. Allen kept the march alive the play before with an impressive 10-yard scramble on third-and-10.
After showing great poise under pressure in the first half, Allen showed off his arm in the second half, hitting Curtis Samuel for a 53-yard strike to end the lead to 30-zip before the Saints finally broke up the shutout early in the fourth quarter.
Allen finished the day 16-of-27 for 228 yards for a quarterback rating of 111.3. His day ended earlier than hoped: He suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder early in the fourth quarter and gave way to Garrett Gilbert the rest of the way.
McCaffrey wraps up special season
Christian McCaffrey only played on the game's first drive, but he made plays just like he has all season. His 22-yard catch and run on the fifth play put him over 1,500 career receiving yards. Already over 1,500 career rushing yards, the catch made him the third player in NFL history to reach both 1,500-yard plateau's before the end of their second season. That was previously accomplished by Kamara and Herschel Walker.
McCaffrey finished the year with 1,098 rushing yards and 867 receiving yards on 107 receptions – the all-time record for an NFL running back in a season. He scored seven touchdowns on the ground, six on catches and even threw a touchdown pass.
More good stuff from Moore
When Calvin Ridley scored six times in his first four games for the Falcons, some fans bemoaned the Panthers' decision to pass on Ridley with the No. 24 pick in the draft in favor of DJ Moore. In the season finale, Moore continued to remind people that both he and Ridley appear worthy of top-20 selections.
Moore remarkable run-after-catch ability was on display again early; he was initially credited with a 20-yard score on Carolina's opening drive but had the ball placed inside the 1-yard line after replay review. Moore then kept Carolina's third touchdown drive in as many catches with an amazing 38-yard grab along the left sideline, blanketed by 2017 first-round draft pick Marshon Lattimore.
Expect many more impactful matchups pitting Moore against Lattimore in the years to come. And for the debate between Moore and Ridley to continue as well.