Posted on December 3, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Fans of the New Orleans Saints have probably been wondering all season when the proverbial shoe is going to drop. When is their team going to revert to the mediocre bunch it’s been for years? When will the running game die and the defense remember how bad it usually is?
After a loss to the Rams last week, a loss to the Panthers this week would be enough to send some fans back over the edge. Nothing erodes confidence faster than a losing streak even if it is only two games long.
As it turns out, it isn’t quite time for the shoe to drop on the Saints. At least, not yet.
New Orleans got on the board first with a two-yard touchdown run by Alvin Kamara on the team’s opening drive of the game. But Carolina answered with a two-yard touchdown run of their own by Jonathan Stewart on the ensuing drive.
If both teams were going to be able to drive on each other, the outcome of the game could be decided by whoever makes the most mistakes and whoever made the most significant plays.
The first big play came early in the second quarter when Saints running back Mark Ingram broke through the Carolina defense and scampered down field for a 72-yard gain. Ingram would score from three yards out a couple plays later.
After the game, he had this to say about his big run (ESPN):
“I’m trying to get my best ‘Alvin Kamara’ on. I’m trying to go in ‘Matrix mode,'” said Ingram, who then added, “[People are] sleeping on my speed, so I gotta put the burners on ‘em every now and then.”
At that point, the game was still close. All Carolina had to do was answer with some points of there own, and the game would remain for either team to win. Instead, the Panthers went three and out on their next drive. But then the punter fumbled the ball and didn’t get off his kick.
New Orleans wasted no time taking advantage of the field position. Six plays later, Drew Brees hit Michael Thomas with a ten-yard touchdown pass. Just like that, the Saints held a commanding 21-7 lead.
The Saints would return the favor before the end of the half and gave the Panthers great field position thanks to a fumble. Christian McCaffrey would do the honors four plays later and take it in from 21-yards out.
At the half, the Panthers were still in the game. They just needed to get their offense moving in the second half and finish drives off with points. It wouldn’t hurt if the defense stepped up their game as well.
They were unable to do either. Alvin Kamara put the Saints up 28-14 with a 20-yard touchdown run on their first drive of the second half. After the Saints missed a field goal late in the third quarter, the Panthers appeared as if they were going to close the gap. But on fourth and six from the 12-yard line, Cam Newton connected with Devin Funchess for a five-yard gain.
But hope was not lost. The Carolina defense did its job and forced a three and out. They were set to get the ball back with great field position, but then the punt returner fumbled the catch. New Orleans recovered.
The Saints would tack on a field goal to extend the lead to 31-14. Devin Funchess would cap off the scoring with a 24-yard touchdown reception on Carolina’s final drive to make the final 31-21, Saints.
New Orleans is in a great position. They have a one-game lead over the Panthers and own the tiebreaker. If the playoff picture doesn’t change, they’ll end up seeing the Panthers again in the wild-card round. They face another division foe, the Atlanta Falcons in a few days on Thursday Night Football.
The Panthers can’t afford to waste time licking their wounds. They have the Vikings coming to town next week.