Rookie Devin Funchess improving as Panthers enter playoffs

There was some concern about the Carolina Panthers offense entering Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, with some key offensive players out due to injury. Devin Funchess seized the opportunity, setting new career highs in receptions and yards (7 and 120) while also scoring his fifth career touchdown.

"Last week I don't think he had a catch," said Cam Newton, Panthers quarterback. "Moving forward, his confidence has been shooting through the roof. This is just an appetizer for things to come."

The Panthers had high hopes for Funchess after selecting him in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Pressure on the rookie increased after last year's breakout star, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, suffered a season-ending injury in training camp. It took some time, but now Funchess provides a dangerous threat on game-day.

"I compare it to the growth that Kelvin went through last year," said Ron Rivera, Panthers head coach. "Kelvin hit it a lot sooner, but Kelvin didn't miss as much time as Devin did. Each time you see Devin have opportunities to have a breakout game, it's exciting."

The Panthers hope to have a healthy offense for their first playoff game. Coach Rivera said Funchess could have a sneaky impact throughout the postseason.