Playoff picture: The Panthers (11-4) clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2008, but they have much more to play for. A win in Week 17 at Atlanta would give them the NFC South title and a first-round bye with a home game in two weeks as at least the NFC's No. 2 seed. If San Francisco wins Monday night and next week against Arizona, and Seattle loses its final game against St. Louis, the 49ers would win the NFC West and Carolina would be the No. 1 seed.
The final drive: The Panthers gained only 60 yards on their first 18 plays of the second half. They gained 65 yards on their final five plays, ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Cam Newton to Domenik Hixon with 23 seconds left. One of those plays was a spike to stop the clock.
Saint nicked: Newton admitted he nicked his ankle Sunday, but he wouldn't admit it affected his effectiveness as a runner. But as a runner, he had a season-low 6 yards scrambling and failed to have a rushing touchdown for the first time this year. Newton blamed much of his ineffectiveness as a runner on the monsoon that hit the stadium in the third quarter. So how did Newton nick his ankle? "I have no clue," he said. "I got tackled. It's a physical sport, and things happen."
Twenty-four: To put in perspective inside linebacker Luke Kuechly's 24 tackles, consider: That's the total of the top six tacklers in the game combined for New Orleans. Or as Carolina safety Mike Mitchell said, "That's like a created player in 'Madden.' That's not supposed to happen." Kuechly now has 165 tackles on the season, or one more than he had last season when he led the league. And he has a game left.
Strange but true: The Panthers apparently are the master of winning games without converting on third down. They were 0-for-9 on Sunday, the first time a team has won without converting at least once since ... you guessed it, the Panthers. They were 0-for-6 in a 48-16 victory over Tampa Bay in Week 16 of 2011.