New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - DeAngelo Williams ran for a Panthers-record
210 yards with a pair of scores, as Carolina wrapped up a solid finish to the
season with a 44-38 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Mike Tolbert added 25 yards and three short touchdowns as part of a 273-yard
rushing performance for the Panthers (7-9), who won their final four games and
five of their last six, possibly saving coach Ron Rivera's job. Carolina
improved upon last year's 6-10 mark in Rivera's first season.
Cam Newton battled through a leg injury in the fourth quarter and threw for
248 yards with an interception in the victory. The Panthers rebounded nicely
after a 1-6 start, with their lone victory in that stretch coming in Week 2
against a Saints team that had its own problems throughout an up-and-down
New Orleans (7-9) had a chance to finish at .500 after a disastrous 0-4 start
that followed numerous off-field issues, but instead wound up with a losing
record for the first time since 2007.
Trouble for the Saints began in the spring with the announcement of the bounty
scandal that featured the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton,
who worked out a multi-year contract extension earlier this week.
A contract dispute in the summer with Drew Brees didn't help matters, although
the star quarterback set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a TD
pass and on Sunday reached 5,000 passing yards for the third time in his
career while becoming the first player in league history with at least 40 TD
passes in back-to-back years.
Brees threw for 396 yards with four scores and one interception on Sunday,
while Jonathan Vilma -- a key figure in the NFL's bounty investigation --
returned an interception for a score. Vilma eventually won an appeal of his
season-long suspension for his alleged role in the scandal.
The Sports Network