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Carolina Panthers

Strickly Panthers: It's always winning time

However the 2015 season turns out for the Carolina Panthers, it's unlikely anyone will point back to the team's preseason-opening victory over the Buffalo Bills as any sort of watershed moment.

But in the moment, the thirst for victory was just as palatable as it will be come December and beyond.

"Winning is contagious," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It breeds confidence. It breeds a culture."

Olsen and his fellow starters had long left the game when Carolina took possession with less than two minutes left, trailing 24-17, but mentally they were still in the game. Quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Thomas Davis were virtually standing in the field of play as the offense began what would prove the game-winning march, and when Paul Browning caught a two-point conversion with 54 seconds left, Newton sprinted onto the field in celebration.

"It wasn't pretty, but we were able to get into that winning atmosphere," Newton said. "We can go back and fix a lot of things, but you can't fix a loss."

There is a lot to fix, as head coach Ron Rivera made abundantly clear after the game. That process – a process that is never really over – will continue when the Panthers return to the practice field Monday at Wofford College and will intensify when the Miami Dolphins arrive in Wofford for joint practices Wednesday and Thursday to wrap up training camp.

The Panthers and Dolphins will face off Saturday night at Bank of America Stadium, and a victory would already assure Carolina of at least a .500 preseason record.

Again that doesn't technically mean anything…or does it?

In their 20 seasons in the NFL, the Panthers have reached the playoffs six times. All six times, they finished at least .500 in the preseason.

"Winning is always our goal," right tackle Mike Remmers said. "We didn't come out here thinking, 'Well, it doesn't really matter if we win or lose.'

"Plus, the flight home is always better after a W."

Indeed. And the journey is just beginning.

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