Panthers cap season with last-second victory against Saints, shift focus to offseason

Carolina won 10-7 after Eddy Pineiro’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard runs during the second half an NFL football game...
Carolina Panthers running back Chuba Hubbard runs during the second half an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)(Butch Dill | AP)
Published: Jan. 8, 2023 at 3:55 PM EST
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers capped off their 2022 season in style on Sunday, defeating the NFC South foe New Orleans Saints on a last-second field goal.

After Saints kicker Wil Lutz missed from 55 yards, Carolina marched 30 yards down the field to set up the game-winning try for Eddy Pineiro.

The 10-7 victory pushed the Panthers to a 7-10 record on the season, finishing second in the division.

The Panthers were largely without a passing game, as quarterback Sam Darnold completed just five passes for only 43 yards. He also threw two interceptions, one of which came near the goal line as Carolina was driving near the end of the first half.

On the ground, the Panthers continued to run the ball well, tallying 171 rushing yards as a team.

Carolina was eliminated from playoff contention last week when it lost to the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay. At the time, the Panthers controlled their own playoff destiny, but had to win in order to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Despite the matchup not having any playoff implications, tensions boiled over between the division rivals in the third quarter, leading to fists flying between Panthers running back D’Onta Foreman and Saints defensive lineman Marcus Davenport. Both players were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and ejected from the game.

With the door on the 2022 season now officially closed, the Panthers’ next order of business will be to find the team’s next head coach.

Steve Wilks filled in as the interim head coach for the final 12 games, going 6-6 after Matt Rhule was fired following a Week 5 blowout loss to the 49ers.

The Panthers have been linked to current University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, although it remains to be seen whether he is willing to actually leave the college ranks for a second time.

According to an ESPN report, Wilks also remains a candidate for the full-time position, as well as a pair of former Indianapolis Colts head coaches in Jim Caldwell and Frank Reich.

Carolina also is at somewhat of a crossroads at the quarterback position, with Sam Darnold and P.J. Walker both set to become a free agents, and neither having proved themselves as a long-term solution. The team drafted Matt Corral in the third round of last year’s draft, but he spent the entire regular season on injured reserve after undergoing foot surgery.

Sunday’s victory does though keep the team at the tail end of the top 10 in the 2023 NFL Draft, where they are currently slated to have the ninth-overall pick.

Related: AP source: Panthers owner, Jim Harbaugh discuss coaching job