The Saints were unable to defeat the Carolina Panthers in today’s game. If the Saints won the matchup today, the team would’ve earned the most regular season wins in franchise history. Although that would’ve been a lovely addition to a successful season, it is even sweeter to march into playoff football with healthy players. Here’s a breakdown of today’s matchup.
The Panthers received the opening kickoff and started on offense with a false start courtesy of tight end Chris Manhertz. On the ensuing play, dynamic defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins went down with an injury. Rankins walked off with trainers and into the medical tent. Later on that drive, defensive end Alex Okafor suffered an injury, but he was able to walk off on his own. Both players were able to return to the game but didn’t stay for long as the team wanted to keep them healthy. After a few plays, Panthers’ quarterback, Kyle Allen snuck up the middle for a touchdown.
On the other side of the ball, the Saints finally get to see Teddy time as Teddy Bridgewater started his first NFL game after suffering a devastating knee injury in the summer of 2016. The Saints’ first offensive play was a handoff to running back Mark Ingram as he carried it for 16 yards. Bridgewater completed his first pass to Ingram for a 17-yard gain. Later that drive, offensive lineman Andrus Peat headed to the team’s locker room after suffering an injury. Derek Newton made his first appearance since October 24, 2016, when he came in to replace him. The Saints would eventually punt the ball back to the Panthers.
On the next Panthers’ offensive drive, linebacker A. J. Klein laid a massive hit on Kyle Allen as the ball came out. However, that was called an incomplete pass. After a major pass interference call on cornerback Eli Apple, the Panthers scored a 15-yard rushing touchdown with their backup running back Cameron Artis-Payne. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro would miss the extra point, making the score 13-0 with the Panthers on top.
The 2nd quarter started slowly for the New Orleans Saints. After a string of plays, Teddy Bridgewater made some shifty moves, juking out a Panthers’ defender on his way to 10 yards on third down and five. After a few more short plays, the Saints would attempt a fourth down and two yards to go, yet they didn’t convert.
After the failed conversion, the Panthers took over on their 10-yard line. The offense would eventually find themselves in a fourth down situation with seven yards to go. They would convert that play and finally enter the red zone for the third time in three possessions. Kyle Allen ran for an 11-yard gain before throwing a touchdown to tight end Ian Thomas. The game would end up going to halftime as the score was now 20-0.
The Saints received the ball to start the second half. As the Saints tried to get on track, Bridgewater shook off a Panther defender and connected with tight end Benjamin Watson for a huge gain and a first down. The Saints would eventually punt the ball. When they got the ball back again, Bridgewater overthrew a wide-open Michael Thomas. Had Bridgewater and Thomas connected, Thomas would’ve earned the franchise record for receiving yards in a single season, held by Joe Horn. The Saints would once again punt the ball.
When the Panthers got the ball back, they had no intentions of letting off the gas. Kyle Allen connected with wide receiver Curtis Samuel for a huge 53-yard touchdown in double coverage.
After the kickoff, the Saints found a new potential contributor to their offense. Third-string running back Dwayne Washington rattled off several huge runs which gave the Saints some energy. On this drive, Michael Thomas would tie Joe Horn’s franchise record with a 7-yard reception.
The Saints started off the fourth quarter superb as Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn’s record thanks to a six-yard throw from Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater would connect with wide receiver Tre’Quan Smith for the team’s first touchdown of the day.
When the Panthers received the ball again, they felt the force of defensive end Marcus Davenport. Davenport came untouched off the edge and demolished Kyle Allen. Allen would exit the game as fourth-string quarterback Garrett Gilbert entered in his place. A few plays later, Davenport would break through again, sacking Gilbert. The Panthers’ drive ended with a 51-yard field goal conversion from Catanzaro.
After a fair catch on the ensuing kickoff, wide receiver TommyLee Lewis caught a first down pass. Bridgewater would soon throw an interception to Panthers’ safety Colin Jones. However, the Panthers would find themselves in a fourth down situation which they failed to convert.
Running back Dwayne Washington, continued his spectacular day rushing for a 26-yard gain on first down. The Saints’ Swiss army knife, Taysom Hill, would power his way up the middle and add a rushing touchdown to his resume.
Davenport showed up once again on the next Panthers’ offensive drive as he recorded another tackle for loss. The Panthers would finally punt for the first time in the game with only two minutes remaining. The Saints would just run the clock out, conceding the win to the Panthers. The Saints would lose their final game of the season by a score of 33-14.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater had some great throws today as well as some obscure ones, completing 14 out of 22 pass attempts for 118 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. It was a solid outing, yet there is plenty of room for improvement.
The highlight of the game was undoubtedly when Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn’s franchise record. Watching the game on my tv, I could hear the sounds from inside the stadium as the cheers drowned out the commentators.
Although the game didn’t end in a Saints’ win, the Saints finished the game without suffering any significant injuries. That is the real winner as the team now prepares for playoff football.
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