Despite not having their top three running backs and one starting safety available due to COVID-19 protocols, the New Orleans Saints wrapped up the regular season with a 33-7 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
New Orleans ends the regular season 12-4 overall, swept the NFC South and clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
How It Happened:
After forcing Carolina to go three-and-out and punt, New Orleans wasted little time as the Saints went 42 yards on only eight plays and capped off the drive with a 18-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tight end Jared Cook.
The two teams would then trade punts before the Panthers finally got on the scoreboard. Carolina went 64 yards on seven plays, highlighted by a 25-yard pass from Teddy Bridgewater to Curtis Samuel. The drive was capped with a one-yard touchdown run by Rodney Smith.
That proved to be the final score for the Panthers.
Carolina’s next drive ended after Malcolm Jenkins intercepted Bridgewater. New Orleans turned that turnover into points as five plays later Brees found Emmanuel Sanders for an eight-yard touchdown in the second quarter. The extra point attempt was no good and the Saints held a 13-7 lead.
The Saints defense continued to play stout.
The Panthers’ next possession ended with a turnover on downs as Malcolm Brown stuffed Samuel on a fourth-and-one run. The next two Carolina possessions ended with interceptions as Grant Haley picked off Bridgewater and then Marshon Lattimore intercepted backup quarterback P.J. Walker.
After settling for two field goals by Will Lutz in the second and third quarters, New Orleans got back into the end zone after the Lattimore pick in the third.
The Saints needed only three plays to go 24 yards as Taysom Hill scored on a three-yard run. At the end of the third, New Orleans held a comfortable 26-7 lead.
The Saints continued to pour it on to start the fourth as Brees threw his third touchdown pass — this one an 11-yard strike to Austin Carr.
Big Number 156
The Saints played without starting running back Alvin Kamara, backup running backs Latavius Murray and Dwayne Washington, and starting fullback Michael Burton. Yet, despite those players sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols, the Saints still rushed for 156 yards on 30 carries, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
Big Number II: 5
The Saints pass defense recorded five interceptions (twice picking off Teddy Bridgewater and three times intercepting P.J. Walker). The five picks are tied for the second most in a single game in franchise history. Malcolm Jenkins, P.J. Williams, Marshon Lattimore, Grant Haley and Ken Crawley all picked off passes.
Players of the Game: Ty Montgomery & Grant Haley
Montgomery stepped up and gave the Saints good production as the starting running back, as he rushed for 105 yards on 18 carries, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Haley meanwhile was thrust into playing time and led the team with six tackles, one quarterback hit, one pass deflection and one interception.
Up Next: The NFC Wild Card round of the playoffs. The No. 2 seed Saints will host the game either on Saturday or Sunday.