New Orleans, LA (Sports Network) - DeAngelo Williams ran for a Panthers-record 210 yards with a pair of scores, as Carolina wrapped up a solid finish to the season with a 44-38 victory over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
Mike Tolbert added 25 yards and three short touchdowns as part of a 273-yard rushing performance for the Panthers (7-9), who won their final four games and five of their last six, possibly saving coach Ron Rivera's job. Carolina improved upon last year's 6-10 mark in Rivera's first season.
Cam Newton battled through a leg injury in the fourth quarter and threw for 248 yards with an interception in the victory. The Panthers rebounded nicely after a 1-6 start, with their lone victory in that stretch coming in Week 2 against a Saints team that had its own problems throughout an up-and-down 2012.
New Orleans (7-9) had a chance to finish at .500 after a disastrous 0-4 start that followed numerous off-field issues, but instead wound up with a losing record for the first time since 2007.
Trouble for the Saints began in the spring with the announcement of the bounty scandal that featured the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton, who worked out a multi-year contract extension earlier this week.
A contract dispute in the summer with Drew Brees didn't help matters, although the star quarterback set an NFL record for most consecutive games with a TD pass and on Sunday reached 5,000 passing yards for the third time in his career while becoming the first player in league history with at least 40 TD passes in back-to-back years.
Brees threw for 396 yards with four scores and one interception on Sunday, while Jonathan Vilma -- a key figure in the NFL's bounty investigation -- returned an interception for a score. Vilma eventually won an appeal of his season-long suspension for his alleged role in the scandal.