Sure, the Panthers went eight weeks without winning a game earlier this season.
But they went the last four without losing one, and now they’re headed to the playoffs.
With no apologies for their 7-8-1 record, the Panthers are headed to the postseason after a dominating 34-3 win over the Falcons.
They outgained the Falcons 306-288, with Cam Newton only throwing 16 passes all day. They outrushed the Falcons 194-63, and played dominant defense all afternoon.
The Panthers closed the season by sweeping through the division (with an ugly win over the Browns mixed in). But like their 41-10 win over the Saints which started this run, the beating they put on the Falcons was thorough.
The Panthers sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan six times, and goaded him into a pair of pick-sixes (by safeties Roman Harper and Tre Boston). They did it with a simple game plan, getting the pressure with their front four and not having to rely on blitzing. It should also be noted they did it without franchise-tagged defensive end Greg Hardy, who made $13.1 million this year for one sack before going on the commissioner’s exempt list because of a domestic violence arrest.
The Falcons had played well down the stretch themselves, but had no answer for the Panthers pressure all day.
While people are going to mock them for the next week and say they have no chance in the postseason (and maybe they don’t), it’s hard to argue with the job Panthers coach Ron Rivera has done with this mishmash of a roster.
His teams are 15-3 in December during his stint as head coach. Even though the first two years of his career those were meaningless December games, he’s now gotten the Panthers to the playoffs in back-to-back years for the first time in franchise history.