CHARLOTTE -- The offseason was going to be spent talking about the Panthers quarterback situation anyway.
Now, it will be a topic every day from now until the end of April.
The Panthers pulled starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the third quarter of their season-ending 33-7 loss to the Saints after he threw a pair of interceptions in the end zone.
The fact that backup P.J. Walker came in and promptly threw another interception didn't matter, as Sunday's performance was the latest in a series of rough outings for Bridgewater coming down the stretch.
With the Panthers picking in the top 10 of the 2021 NFL Draft (the final order won't be known until after the late game Sunday), there will be plenty of time to speculate about the future.
In the short term, the Panthers' offense fell flat again, which isn't altogether surprising considering the way a 5-11 season unfolded.
They've been without Christian McCaffrey most of the year, backup running back Mike Davis was out this week, and the offensive line was kind of a hash, starting its fourth different left tackle this season.
Also, the Saints are heading to the playoffs, so the result was among the expected outcomes as well.
But Bridgewater has opened the door to speculation with a series of rough outings in the second half of the season.
He was far from the only problem Sunday (head coach Matt Rhule won't be happy with the number of big plays allowed by his defense), but he'll definitely be the one that gets the most attention.
Since it was the finale, it was time to have a little fun.
The Panthers got a few snaps for just-promoted quarterback Tommy Stevens, who could become their version of Taysom Hill in the future (or maybe not, who knows?).
Stevens split wide on his first snap but took a direct snap from the shotgun in the second quarter and ran for a first down.
He's done a number of things on the practice squad since arriving, working as a tight end and a quarterback, and has enough athleticism to be an interesting project.
If nothing else, Stevens adds a little spice to the rivalry for the next few years.
The Saints were out of draft picks this year and were hoping to sign Stevens as an undrafted rookie. When they heard he was close to agreeing to a deal with the Panthers, they traded a future pick to take him in the seventh round. He didn't stick on their roster, and the Panthers ended up bringing him onto the practice squad before signing him to the active roster Saturday.
4 x 1K
The Panthers joined a select club in the second quarter.
When Curtis Samuel hauled in a 33-yard reception from Bridgewater, he became the fourth Panthers player to top 1,000 yards from scrimmage this season.
Only four other teams in the Super Bowl era achieved that mark:
- The 2004 Colts (Edgerrin James, Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Marvin Harrison)
- The 1995 Falcons (Eric Metcalf, Craig Heyward, Terance Mathis, Bert Emanuel)
- The 1990 Oilers (Haywood Jeffries, Drew Hill, Ernest Givens, Lorenzo White)
- The 1989 Washington Football Team (Earnest Byner, Art Monk, Ricky Sanders, Gary Clark).
Of that group, only Washington in 1989 failed to make the playoffs, after going 10-6 that season.
It could prove a fond farewell for Samuel, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
View in-game photos from Carolina's Week 17 game against New Orleans at home.