Cardiac Cats Clinch NFC South and No. 2 NFC Playoffs Seed

NC Nighthawk@NC Nighthawk (my Xbox gamertag)Analyst IDecember 29, 2008

A week after missing a game-winner against the Giants, kicker John Kasay landed a 42-yard field goal to give the Panthers the NFC South title and the No. 2 seed for the NFC playoffs. 

A 39-yard pass from Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme to wide receiver Steve Smith helped set up the winning kick.

After 45 minutes of play at the Superdome, the Panthers were already being fitted for their NFC South Championship T-shirts and caps, but the Saints scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to take a 31-30 lead with just over three minutes remaining in the game.

Carolina then drove into New Orleans’ territory and Kasay eventually knocked through the game winner.

Meanwhile, Drew Brees needed 402 yards to break Dan Marino's 1984 single-season NFL record of 5,084 yards passing, but he fell short by finishing with 386 yards (only 16 yards short), which made him only the second player to pass for more than 5,000 yards.

By virtue of the 33-31 win, the Panthers, a.k.a. the Cardiac Cats, secured a first-round bye in the playoffs.

This marks Carolina's fourth-ever postseason appearance. Additionally, the Panthers won the NFC West in 1996 and NFC South in 2003 and made the playoffs as a Wild Card in 2005.

Now the Panthers are assured of being in the final eight of the NFL playoffs. They’re one win away from the NFC Championship game and two victories shy of the Super Bowl.

Carolina won for the seventh consecutive time at New Orleans and leads the all-time series 16-12. The Panthers swept the season series with the Saints after winning, 30-7, earlier this year at Bank of America Stadium in October. Since 1995, Carolina and New Orleans have split the season series eight times and one of the two clubs has swept the season series on six occasions. 

The win made the Panthers (12-4) champions of the NFC South and means they will play at Bank of America Stadium on Jan. 10 against Arizona (9-7), Atlanta (11-5), or Minnesota (10-6), depending on the outcome of next week’s first-round games. Carolina has played all three teams this season and is a combined 3-2 against them.

One of the benefits about Sunday’s win for the Panthers was the bye that gives them next weekend off. If they’d lost to New Orleans, they would’ve had to travel to Arizona for a first-round game. 

The break will allow four injured Panthers’ linemen to heal. Starting defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu (ankle) and Damione Lewis (shoulder) sat out Sunday’s game with injuries and offensive line starters Geoff Hangartner (ankle) and Jeff Otah (toe) were hurt against the Saints.

The Panthers were 8-0 at home this year and outscored opponents 234-111.



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