NEW ORLEANS- It’s difficult to beat any team three times. However, the New Orleans Saints handled business at home and once again beat the Carolina Panthers in the Wild-Card playoff round 31-26.
After being down most of the game, Carolina had an opportunity to advance to the divisional round. A first down on the Saints 26-yard line with 58 seconds left. The Saints continued to bring heavy pressure. A few later, an intentional grounding penalty on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, made it third-and-25 on the Saints 34 and a required 10-second runoff left 24 seconds on the clock. The ensuing third down was an incomplete and on fourth down Newton doesn’t get the ball away from his fingertips as Vonn Bell sacked Newton on a safety blitz.
“They’re a great football team.” Coach Ron Rivera talking about the game. “They made plays when they needed to. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the play, we had a chance and that’s all you can really ask for. I thought our guys rallied and I’m proud of the effort they gave. Very proud of the way they stepped up and made things happen at the end of the game. We missed our chance and that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Too much Brees
Drew Brees was nothing short magnificent in this game. Brees threw for 376 yards and two touchdowns. In the first quarter, Carolina dominated time of possession but missed a field goal. Ted Ginn once again made his mark catching an 80-yard touchdown bomb.
“We’d rarely sit on any good plays,” said Saints head coach Sean Payton. “It was a great read by Drew. It was kind of an inside go with a deep in-cut and coverage kind of collapsed on Mike Thomas. You watch that closely on film, Drew kind of shuffled quickly to his right and found Ginn behind the coverage. It was a heck of a play by him.”
Carolina was in control but couldn’t execute
This has been one of the storylines all year for Carolina. Plenty of times in this contest, Newton and the Panther offense just settled for field goals instead of converting touchdowns. The Saints scored three touchdowns in the first half. The Panthers made three field goals – and missed one. Sure, the intentional grounding call will forever be a talking point, but those missed chances in the first half were a killer. Panthers controlled most of the statistics in this game.
“They’re a great football team,” Rivera said, discussing the Saints. “They made plays when they needed to. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the play, we had a chance and that’s all you can really ask for. I thought our guys rallied and I’m proud of the effort they gave. Very proud of the way they stepped up and made things happen at the end of the game. We missed our chance and that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
As the offseason looms, Carolina have many questions they need to answer. It will start with hiring a new general manager. Next, putting more offensive weapons around Newton and this offense. The way this game ended you have to consider bringing in someone who the defense will be scared of.