CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Greg Olsen has a date with his television set Monday night.
Carolina’s veteran tight end plans to stay up a little later and watch the Saints-Bears game — one that suddenly has major playoff implications for the upstart Panthers.
Despite a 5-8-1 record after their 19-17 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, the Panthers can take over sole possession of first place in the NFC South if the Saints lose, positioning themselves to become only the second team in NFL history to reach the postseason with a losing record in a non-strike-shortened season.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Olsen said. “But we’re not going to apologize for it.”
Derek Anderson threw for 277 yards and a touchdown, and Graham Gano kicked four field goals as the Panthers posted their second straight win. The win, coupled with Atlanta’s 27-20 loss to Pittsburgh, left the Panthers a half-game behind New Orleans (5-8) in the NFC South.
Anderson completed 25 of 40 passes and improved to 2-0 as a starter in place of Cam Newton, who missed the game while recovering from a car accident Tuesday that left him with two fractures in his lower back.
Both of his wins have come against Tampa Bay, but Anderson acknowledged he had trouble sleeping Saturday night.
“I started thinking through all the plays and seeing pictures in my mind,” said Anderson, who improved to 20-25 as an NFL starter. “I saw the same things over and over and said to myself, ‘Geez, dude, go to bed.’ ”
Olsen tied a career high with 10 catches for 110 yards, and rookie Kelvin Benjamin had eight grabs for 104 yards.
“We have a ton of confidence in (Anderson),” said Olsen, who tied a career high with 10 catches and had 110 yards. “There is no scaling back on playbooks or installation. This week’s preparation went on like it would normally.”
Anderson doesn’t bring the same mobility as Newton.
In fact, on two read-option plays, the Bucs completely ignored Anderson. But he got the crowd pumped when he eluded pressure and rambled for a 9-yard gain in the first quarter and signaled for a first down.
Newton, dressed in black sweats and a long-sleeve black shirt, roared his approval on the sideline, clapping and smiling as he watched the replay on the video board.
“Someone told me I wouldn’t do it,” Anderson joked. “I said that if I ran for a first down, I promise you I’ll do it.”