Before their Super Bowl year of 2003, the Carolina Panthers ended the '02 season by winning four of five games in December to finish 7-9.
The late spurt included a 52-31 victory against Cincinnati - still the most points scored by the Panthers - on a weekend when an ice storm paralyzed Charlotte.
Former Panthers coach John Fox was fond of saying "people remember what you do in December" - a mantra he has taken out west to Denver. Fox's Panthers' teams generally had memorable Decembers, going 24-14 during his nine seasons.
After their first back-to-back wins in two years, the current Panthers are hoping a strong finishing kick will carry over into 2012, when Cam Newton will have a year of experience and Ron Rivera's staff will have an entire, uninterrupted offseason.
Recent history suggests how teams finish one season is not necessarily an accurate indicator of how successful they'll be the following year.
Over the past five seasons, 31 teams made the playoffs after missing the postseason the previous season. But only 12 of those teams had winning records in December and January regular-season games the year before.
Still, closing the season on a roll would be beneficial for a Carolina team that has lost five games by a touchdown or less.
"Good teams make their best run in December," running back DeAngelo Williams said. "And that's what we're trying to put together - a strong finish to get that momentum to carry over into next year and get to where we want to be in the whole grand scheme of things."
When Rivera was an assistant under Norv Turner in San Diego, the Chargers were arguably the league's best closers. San Diego went undefeated in December and January in 2007-09 to earn playoff berths each year.
Panthers receiver Legedu Naanee, who was on those Chargers' teams, said Rivera has emphasized the importance of ending on a high note.
"That's really our focus right now, to finish strong," Naanee said. "There's been an emphasis in practice as far as fundamentals. Being prepared. Not necessarily for this year to finish strong but to get that taste as a team so next year we're in a better position when December comes. That's the time when teams are going to make that playoff push or they don't."
Of the Panthers' remaining four games, two will be against division leaders in Houston and New Orleans, both 9-3. The Panthers (4-8) this weekend will face Atlanta (7-5), which is in the playoff hunt.
The Dec. 24 game against Tampa Bay (4-8) figures to be the only game in which the Panthers are favored.