NFC South Champs get first round bye

The Carolina Panthers did something that no other NFC South opponent did this season: Win a divisional road game.

With the win, the Panthers clinched the second seed in the NFC playoff bracket and thus obtained a first round bye. The win also means that the Panthers will host a playoff game in Charlotte in two weeks as the 2008 NFC South Champions.

Despite leading most of the game and dominating the first half, the Panthers found themselves clawing back late after Drew Brees and the Saints scored three touchdowns in the final quarter. Down by one, the Panthers drove down the field in the final minutes of the game, ran out the clock and elected to settle for a John Kasay field goal to go ahead for the win.

DeAngelo Williams had a big day on the ground, rushing for 178 yards, but didn't make it into the end zone for the first time in several weeks. However, Williams set himself atop the Panthers' record book for most rushing yards in a season with 1,515, besting Stephen Davis' mark of 1,444 set in 2003.

Carolina was down to its last lineman, literally, when Jeff Otah left the game in the fourth quarter due to a toe injury. Carolina lost guard Geoff Hangartner earlier in the game with an ankle injury. Carolina only activates 7 offensive linemen, and the injuries meant that backup LT Frank Omiyale and RG Jeremy Bridges had to finish the game. Had there been another injury, the team would have likely put TE Jeff King in at tackle.

The Panthers have a little time to rest and recuperate after wrapping up the NFC South Championship and a first round bye. Defensive Tackles Ma'ake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis both sat out with injuries and numerous Panther players suffered other injuries that will be addressed later in the week during John Fox's weekly press conference.

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