NEW ORLEANS – Nothing was officially on the line for the Panthers’ 2018 season finale Sunday at the New Orleans Saints. Win or lose, Carolina knew it wasn’t going to the playoffs.
The outcome could, however, impact the 2019 season – in a real way in terms of draft order, in terms of next year’s opponents, and in a small way in terms of how the Panthers feel about themselves heading out of one year and into the next.
At the end of the day, the intangible impact was what head coach Ron Rivera most valued.
“To get off the schneid, I think, is pretty cool for the guys. It gives us the opportunity to head off into the offseason a little bit with their heads up,” Rivera said after the Panthers ended a seven-game losing skid with a 33-14 victory over the playoff-bound Saints. “It is not about draft picks. It is about winning and losing. That’s what it’s about. We didn’t come in here to lose and throw in the towel. We came in here to compete.”
Once 6-2, the Panthers’ slide started with a 31-point loss to the Steelers, then it kept going and going with six more losses by a total of 34 points. Sunday, with Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara not active for the Saints but Cam Newton not active for the Panthers, Carolina led by 30 points at one juncture.
“I know everyone in this locker room is excited,” rookie receiver DJ Moore said. “Everybody always talks about how hard it is to win in the NFL. I’m just happy to get a win.”
Undrafted rookie quarterback Kyle Allen, who afforded himself well under center, said before and after the game that the focus was on winning above anything else, and he headed up a roster-full of winning efforts.
“We have a bunch of young guys that made this team for a reason," Rivera said, "and we wanted to get a good look at them. They performed pretty admirably.
"You still have to compete. That is the way we will always approach it as long as I am the coach. I just believe that that is the right way to do things. We are professionals, and we come here to do our job.”