Improved offense gives reason for optimism

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The season didn't end the way coach Ron Rivera wanted it to, as the Panthers lost 45-17 to the Saints on Sunday. Even so, there are a lot of positives for the first-year head coach to take forward after a season in which his team finished 6-10 -- a four-game improvement over the previous season.

The season didn't end the way coach Ron Rivera wanted it to, as the Panthers lost 45-17 to the Saints on Sunday. Even so, there are a lot of positives for the first-year head coach to take forward after a season in which his team finished 6-10 -- a four-game improvement over the previous season.

The Panthers went from being last in the NFL in total offense and points scored to third in total offense and tied for fifth in scoring in a new scheme led by offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinksi. They were also third in rushing.

Defensively, the Panthers struggled all season as injuries piled up and they struggled against some of the league's better offenses, such as the Saints'.

Because the team had so many injuries early on, coordinator Sean McDermott wasn't able to install many of the schemes he wanted to as the personnel kept changing.

Carolina's special teams were a complete disaster for a good portion of the season, leading to three early losses with key blunders. However, it can be argued some of those errors were the result of the trickle-down effect of losing so many starters.

Overall, the Panthers have proven they're a team on the rise and will be a club to be reckoned with in the future. And they have 57 players under contract for next season, including 20 of 22 starters.

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