On Sunday, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers to improve to 13-3 on the year. Even though they won, the Saints’ playoff seed did not change. They will go into the playoffs as the third seed in the NFC and will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday.
Drew Brees and company started the game in regular fashion. The Saints marched right down the field, ending in a 15-yard touchdown run by Alvin Kamara.
The Panthers were unable to get anything going on their first drive of the afternoon. New Orleans got the ball back and moved the ball with ease. Alvin Kamara scored his second rushing touchdown of the day from one yard out. The Saints were now leading 14-0.
Carolina was able to get a big pass-interference call on their second drive. Unfortunately for the Panthers, a bad handoff from Will Grier caused Christian McCaffrey to lose the ball on the next play. New Orleans recovered and were now looking to take a commanding lead.
The Saints ended up punting the ball back to Carolina after stalling out on their third possession. Will Grier, making his second career start, threw an interception that was returned 13 yards for a touchdown by linebacker A.J. Klein.
New Orleans defensive end, Cameron Jordan, sacked Will Grier on third down, forcing another three-and-out against the Panthers offense. Drew Brees would later find Tre’Quan Smith in the end-zone for a one-yard touchdown pass. The Saints had now scored four touchdowns in the opening half to take a 28-0 lead.
Once again, the Saints stopped the Panthers and got the ball back with enough time to extend their lead before halftime. Drew Brees would throw his second touchdown of the day, this time a 21-yard pass to Jared Cook with just more than two minutes to go.
Kyle Allen would replace Will Grier, providing a spark to the stagnant Panthers offense. After getting inside the red-zone, Carolina couldn’t capitalize and settled for a 23-yard field goal from Joey Slye. This score going into halftime was 35-3 in favor of New Orleans.
Both offenses struggled to perform at the start of the second half. Drew Brees would end up throwing his third and final touchdown pass of the day to the “Swiss Army Knife”, Taysom Hill. The 45-yard touchdown would extend the New Orleans lead to 42-3.
The Carolina offense would finally get into a bit of a rhythm. Kyle Allen completed a 40-yard pass to Brandon Zylstra, setting his team up with a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Christian McCaffrey would punch it in from one yard out. That would be the Panthers only touchdown of the day and it would narrow the gap to 42-10, where the score would remain for the rest of the evening.
New Orleans would now rest some of their starters heading into the fourth quarter with a big lead. The game was just a mere formality at this point.
Kyle Allen was able to move the ball inside the red-zone once again before being intercepted by Janoris Jenkins. This would be Jenkins’ fifth interception of the season and his first since becoming a member of the Saints, after being waived by the New York Giants a couple weeks earlier.
Stats and Players of the Game
Drew Brees would finish the game completing 19 of his 30 passes for three touchdowns. Latavius Murray would rush for 61 yards and catch a single pass for 14 yards. Alvin Kamara finished with 57 total yards and two touchdowns.
Michael Thomas caught four passes for 37 yards, extending his single-season reception record to 149. Tre’Quan Smith recorded 56 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Taysom Hill and Jared Cook each added a touchdown catch of their own.
Carolina’s two quarterbacks had completely different days. Will Grier finished the game completing just one of his eight passes for four yards, an interception, and a lost fumble. Kyle Allen completed 25 of 41 passes for 295 yards and an interception.
Christian McCaffrey would gain 26 yards and a touchdown rushing while also catching seven passes for 72 yards. McCaffrey would eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing and receiving marks for the season, joining an exclusive group of players to ever have such a season.
Second-year receiver Brandon Zylstra had a career day, hauling in six of his eight targets for 96 yards. Rookie linebacker, Brian Burns, recorded the only sack of the day for Carolina.
Carolina’s season is now at an end while the Saints will be looking forward to their wild-card playoff game next Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings (10-6). It will be a nice revenge game for New Orleans, as the Vikings eliminated them from the playoffs two years ago.
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