What it means: A lot more than you think. This was a turning point for Ron Rivera and his young team. The Panthers went on the road and beat a good team. That’s a step toward bigger and better things for next season. The Panthers had come close to doing something like this a bunch of times this season, but they always built a lead and let it slip away. This time they didn’t. A defense that’s been decimated by injuries and struggled all season stepped up and held a good offense to 13 points. Imagine what Rivera, a defensive coach, can do next season when he gets some injured defenders back and fills a few holes through the draft and free agency? Even the present is much brighter than it was before. The Panthers are 5-9 and no longer are in last place in the NFC South. That honor now belongs exclusively to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Play of the day:DeAngelo Williams’ 24-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It came at a time when the Panthers looked like they were starting to collapse again.
Unsung hero: Jordan Senn, who would have been about seventh on Carolina’s depth chart at the start of training camp, came up with a huge interception. Carolina lost linebackers Thomas Davis and Jon Beason to injuries early in the season. The Panthers then went through a bunch of linebackers. But Senn finally earned a starting role. Even when the Panthers get healthy at linebacker next season, Senn should have a job.
Disappointment of the day: Cam Newton came in needing only 167 yards to break Peyton Manning’s record for passing yards by a rookie. Newton came up a bit short, getting 149 against Houston. I think it’s a safe bet Newton will get the record in his next game. Newton threw for two touchdowns and no interceptions.
What’s next: The Panthers host the Buccaneers at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.