Carolina Panthers play spoiler to Ron Rivera, Washington playoff bid

7:07 PM ET

When asked earlier in the week about needs for next season, Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule didn’t hesitate, almost defiantly saying he wasn’t looking past finding a way to beat Washington and the coach he replaced.

And that’s exactly what his team did on Sunday, putting Washington’s playoff hopes on hold with a 20-13 victory over former Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

If Rhule were thinking about next year, he would have found a way to throw the game and move Carolina (5-10) a step closer to the third pick of the NFL draft after the Cincinnati Bengals (4-10-1) won earlier in the day.

Susan Walsh/AP Photo

But Rhule isn’t concerned about the draft or where the Panthers pick in April.

He is trying to build a winning culture, and there’s only one way to do that – win, even if it’s a meaningless December game in terms of the playoff picture.

Washington could have clinched the NFC East title with a victory over Rivera’s former team. Instead, it appeared the Panthers were the team that had everything to play for, and that’s something Rhule can build around.

Wins have been few and far between for Rhule during

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