The Saints will need plenty of help to actually make it to the playoffs this year, but they remain alive heading into Week 18 and their defense deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold was sacked seven times and he turned the ball over twice as the Saints moved to 8-8 on the year with an 18-10 home win. The win keeps the 49ers from clinching a playoff spot and leaves the Saints with a path to the playoffs if they can beat the Falcons next Sunday.
Cam Jordan had 3.5 sacks to lead a Saints pass rush that totally overwhelmed the Panthers in the second half of the game. Carolina had just six first downs and 41 yards of offense after taking a 10-9 lead into the halftime break. C.J Gardner-Johnson iced the win with an interception in the final minute and also had a sack to help the strong effort across the board.
The Saints were held without a touchdown until the fourth quarter, but finally got in the end zone on a 12-yard Taysom Hill pass to Alvin Kamara. Kamara picked up 100 yards from scrimmage and Hill ran for 45 yards while also completing 17-of-28 passes for 222 yards. Marquez Callaway had six of those catches for 97 yards.
Darnold was 17-of-26 for 132 yards and lost a fumble in addition to throwing the interception to Gardner-Johnson. It was his first start since Week Nine, but the Panthers offense showed nothing better than its offered over the course of their current six-game losing streak. He seems likely to start against the Bucs next Sunday if only because the Panthers are on the hook for next season, but any hopes of progress in Carolina are going to start with a better solution at quarterback.
The Saints may be looking for one as well, but at least they can do so with a better feeling about the rest of their roster.