The final game of the year was, just as with 2006, unfortunately a useless game for both the Panthers and their foe. After playing division champion New Orleans in week 17 in '06 having been eliminated from the playoffs, the Panthers again traveled to the year's divisional champion without anything to play for and with their opponent's seed in the playoffs cemented.
So, just as last year, we get hope, some of it false, in some strong player performances. Individually, Matt Moore again looked good, Deangelo Williams took a solid stake in being an every down back, and Dante Rosario made another push toward consistent playing time. Richard Marshall had a sack, an INT, and led the team in tackles. We came out with a solid win, and Vinny Testaverde was able to kneel on the game, the season, and his career.
It was a bit of a struggle for Thomas Davis, who was penalized and then was caught in the wrong place behind QB Luke McCown on a 50 yard scramble; Davis couldn't chase the QB down. It was a bleak contrast from the last two games, which had game-changing plays made by Davis, one of which won the game. He's shown a ton of growth as a player, and he's been a force this year. Wasn't fun seeing him not be able to catch a white kid at QB, though. It won't matter that he almost had the sack, or that he flushed the QB, or went off-balance trying to get the sack. That footrace does kinda suck. But, Davis isn't a lesser player for it, and it took long enough to get ten other players in camera view.
Ryne Robinson struggled, too - another fumble, to negate the positivity of a 60 yard KO return.
Tampa sat some starters early, but still kept some vets in. Despite that, the starting line was out there, and we got pressure for once. Without Garcia, it's a different game, though. He deftly sliced through our secondary, using aging Ike Hilliard to put us in the hole before the game had barely started.
It's always nice to finish strong, and with pride. The last month gave us more Deangelo, a little hope in young receivers Rosario, Jarrett, Robinson; the team went down early in these last games and didn't fold. That's the minimum, whereas now we need a good deal more.