Week Nine Morning Aftermath: Saints 30, Panthers 20

This one had blowout written all over it.  Though, on the surface, the Saints were ripe for a potential letdown, the fact that the Panthers have owned the Louisiana version of this NFC South rivalry since 2002 seemingly would have been enough to ensure that the home team would drop the hammer on the Panthers.

So, naturally, the Panthers raced to an early lead.

On the second play from scrimmage, DeAngelo Williams bolted 66 yards for a touchdown.  Then, after the teams traded punts, Saints quarterback Drew Brees coughed up the ball upon taking a sack.  Two plays later, Williams cashed in from seven yards out, pushing the score to 14-0.

As we pointed out at the time, the Saints had the Panthers right where they wanted them.

But it took a while for the Saints to turn the tables.  It looked like it would happen fairly quickly, but the next drive petered out inside the Carolina five, forcing New Orleans to settle for a field goal.

Then, the Panthers answered with a field goal of their own, pushing the lead back to 14.

It stayed there until late in the first half, when Brees and the Saints started on their own 17 with 1:43 on the clock and drove as deep as the Carolina seven.  Another field goal pushed the score to 17-6.

There remained a vague sense at the half that this one would be different than the game two weeks earlier at Miami, when the Saints fell behind by 21 points before outscoring the Dolphins the rest of the way by 33. 

But then, on the third play of the third quarter, Brees found receiver Devery Henderson on a seven-yard pass and a 56-yard run.  On the next snap, Pierre Thomas parlayed the field position into a touchdown that, with the extra point, cut the lead to four.

The Panthers didn’t collapse, however, even as the momentum melted away.  A 19-play drive that consumed nearly 10 minutes resulted in another field goal, pushing the lead back to seven points, with less than 3:30 to play in the third quarter.

And then it happened.  By the end of the quarter, the score was tied, via a 54-yard catch and run to Robert Meachem (yes, he’s still in the league).  The Saints had matched the Panthers at 20.

So that was that.  Sure, there was still some uncertainty and excitment.  The Panthers drove into New Orleans territory before having to punt, and the Saints’ ensuing 13-play march ended in only a field goal.  But then Anthony Hargrove came up big — twice — recovering a fumble after the Panthers moved to the Saints’ 43 and, more importantly, scooping up a loose ball inside the Carolina five following a punt and walking it in for the final points of the game.

“The first thing that went through my mind was, ‘game over,'” Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme said, per Charles Chandler of the Charlotte Observer.  “I mean, we didn’t have any timeouts left and that was it.”

DeAngelo Williams, who committed that final, fateful fumble, was distraught after the game.

It’s kind of rough to lose this one,” Williams said, per Steve Reed of CarolinaGrowl.com.  “This one right here was a tough one, especially in the
manner in how we lost.
“The defense got us the ball back and I commit a turnover.  That’s how games are
won and lost and whoever plays throughout the fourth quarter and
whoever makes the least amount of mistakes.  I think they made their
plays when it counted and we didn’t.”

“We just have to figure out how to score more points on offense,” tackle Jordan Gross added, per Reed.  “That
was an impressive offense we played today and our defense did a great
job.  But we need to get more dangerous on offense.”

The defense might need more help, too, given that linebacker Thomas Davis suffered a knee injury that might keep him out for a while.

We’re hoping that it’s better than he expects it is,” linebacker Na’il
Diggs said.  “Right now, we’re just trying to encourage him, to keep it
positive around him. . . .  That would be big, to lose one of our ace cards. 
He came in with real high expectations this season, and he was playing
well.  Right now all we can do is stay optimistic, maybe it’s just a
couple of weeks with an MCL or whatever.”

The outcome spoiled an otherwise great day for the Vikings, whose trio of NFC North rivals lost during Minnesota’s bye week.  A defeat by the Saints would have technically placed Minnesota into the top seed in the NFC, given what would have been a superior record in the conference.

Next up for the Saints?  Road trips — and presumably easy wins — in St. Louis and Tampa.    Then, Thanksgiving weekend finishes with what could be an epic Monday night showdown, as the Patriots come calling at the Superdome.

For the Panthers, a chance to get to .500 after an 0-3 start was squandered.

“No doubt, 3-5 is a lot different than 4-4,” Carolina defensive tackle
Hollis Thomas said, according to Reed.  “You keep fighting and try to get out of the
hole, but then you stub your toe and it is back to the drawing board. 
It’s still a long season and you can’t let this ruin your season.”

Though this one might not ruin the season, the day of reckoning is coming.  Ten wins might be mandatory for a playoff berth in the NFC, and it’ll be very difficult for the Panthers to go 6-2 down the stretch against the likes of the Falcons, Dolphins, Jets, Patriots, Vikings, Giants, and Saints.

9 responses to “Week Nine Morning Aftermath: Saints 30, Panthers 20

  1. You left the Bucs off the remaining teams that the Panthers have to overcome to get into the NFC playoffs. Tighten up PFT.

  2. Did any of the talking heads actually watch the game, because I haven’t heard anyone mention the blown Pass Interference call late in the fourth that would’ve set the Panthers up to tie the game. Of course, the Panthers still had another chance to go and score, but that missed call was huge.

  3. I noticed the interference too but it shouldn’t have been that huge. If the Panthers had an OC that could game plan past the first half I really believe they would start winning games.
    Outscored the Cards 28-7 in the first half and then managed 6 points in the second. Outscored the Saints 17-6 in the first half and then managed 3 points in the second.
    No halftime adjustment on Jeff Davidson’s part. Dude makes me sick to my stomach.

  4. No Pass Interference play cost the Panthers this game. I’m really sick and tired of all of you fans looking for calls you claim were not called.
    You had your chance to win and your team blew it.
    The Saints beat the Jets. Giants, Eagles, Falcons, and now the Panthers, and all I heard was excuses. Jets rookie QB, Eagles no McNabb, Giants Injuries in the secondary etc….all of those are part of the game.
    Get over it a BETTER TEAM beat all of those teams!!!!
    FALCONS and

  5. Good game. The Panthers put up a good fight that didn’t pay off.
    I hate to say it but the lack of confidence in Delhomme is really hurting this club. Jake has been a good quarterback over the years and one I wished the Saints had kept. (We kept Aaron “I’m as good as Farve” Brooks instead. Sheesh!) But I think that it may be time for Delhomme to hang it up. The Panthers need a new, fresh, young, QB that they can build upon. I know Jake’s not that old, but some players, “playout” at an earlier age than others.
    QB’s get too much credit and too much blame for a teams performance, but, leadership begins on a football team with the QB. When a team has no confidence in it’s QB, he can NOT lead.

  6. They can still go 9-7 I think. They’ll need to split the series with Atlanta by winning their next matchup with them weekend from next, beat the Dolphins, Jets and Giants and they’ll probably lose to the Patriots and the Vikings. Then, come week 17, the Saints will probably still be sitting pretty with the lone lead in the entire NFC for home field advantage and will most likely sit all their key starters for that last game against the Panthers in Carolina. I saw that will be the Saints’ lone loss this season.

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