Rapid Reaction: Panthers 33, Saints 31

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

It was a struggle, but as Carolina coach John Fox often says, the end result "beat the alternative."

The Panthers almost wasted a comfortable lead for the second straight week and that would have sent them stumbling into the playoffs. But kicker John Kasay hit a last-second field goal.

Kasay, the last original Panther, has made a lot of big kicks through the years, but this one might have been the biggest. It allows the Panthers to carry a little momentum into the playoffs. More importantly, it gave them the No. 2 seed and a week off.

That time off is going to come in handy because the Panthers have been banged up the last couple of weeks. This gives Carolina a chance to get rested and healthy and that could be just what the Panthers need to make a serious run in the playoffs.