They don’t do it the easy way do they? Keeping the game going until the last series as the seconds ticked by and our D came up strong with first the pressure forcing the intentional grounding call then that last sack on Cam Newton, Vonn Bell take a bow. The World is finally giving Cam Jordan credit for his pure class at Defensive End with another sack.
It wasn’t all nerve wracking, heart attack inducing from the Saints, at one point it was looking like a blowout may be on the cards with no Touchdowns allowed by the Saints Defense in the first half, a missed Field goal a 3 straight TD drives by the Offense. The missed field goal is where my point begins. Momentum.
A huge factor in this, and lots of games in the NFL is momentum. The drive which Carolina missed a 25 yard attempted field goal could and should have been a 7-0 lead for the Panthers. The throw was good, the route was good, the catch was not, you could argue it was good pressure but I think he just dropped it. Momentum swing 1, missed chip shot FG, momentum swing 2. That got the crowd up and loud, then 2 plays later, boom! 80 TD reception to a former Panther Mr. Ted Ginn Jr. (4 rec 115 yds) Momentum swing 3 and in reality a 14 point swing, from 0-7 down to 7-0 up within a short space of time. I genuinely think this was the turning point in the game, even though it was so early.
This momentum carried with the Saints for the rest of the half, holding Carolina to a FG on a further red zone visit and a long one before HT. It’s a confidence thing, you start to believe, the stadium believes, people are on their feet and supporting as one. Brees was Breesing out (23/33 376yds 2TD and 1INT – a useful INT), Carolina shut the run game down, so our future Hall of Famer was throwing it everywhere to counter, to different receivers, long plays, short plays, we didn’t need 3rd down conversions in the half really as Drew was getting it done on first and second. At times it was a thing of beauty, Michael Thomas (8 rec 131yds) balled out, again. Carolina weren’t getting a TD score in that half, it wasn’t happening, half time probably game at a bad time for the Saints.
The 3rd quarter passed by with not a great deal to get excited about, a good hold by D to keep it to 3 and a 57 yard FG by Lutz to match Carolina’s monster 58 yarder earlier. Gano missed a 25 yarder but hits a 58 yarder…..ok then…..kickers…..
The next round of swings of the pendulum came when Olsen got Carolina’s first Touchdown of the night, they started to believe again. Prior to that, Cam Newton looked like a sulky kid (as he does a lot of the time). That was a strange drive, we seemed to leave Olsen uncovered a lot. Marshon Lattimore did a good job of Covering Funchess throughout the game but I think we forgot about Olsen a bit at times. This is an area for improvement next Sunday, Minnesota have some BIG weapons in the WR slot and TE slot. Not sure who our impressive rookie covering in Minnesota, Thielen perhaps.
Some life seemed to get into Newton after that drive. Slight momentum swing Carolina, forcing the punt but didn’t matter too much as when the Saints went up to make the game comfortable (or so it seemed) on the next drive with Kamara’s 2 yard score. No 3rd downs needed here, the way Drew avoided pressure, found the space and found MT-13 was brilliant, January football at its best. Hats off to Thomas, again for keeping that route going across the field.
Life then got into Carolina. I’m still not sure how Christian McCaffrey managed to get that whole 56 yards after the catch. Defenders just seemed to stop, although the attempted forced fumble at the end was a nice try. Momentum was with Carolina, they believed, the Saints seemed tired on Defense. Carolina forced the Saints to punt, or so we thought. Firstly, the attempt at drawing them offside, correctly stopped for a T.O but then they went for it again. Properly this time. I’m sorry but contrary to what anyone else says this was the wrong call from the field position, the match situation. Punt it, force them into their own 20, 10 or 5 and let them march it down the whole field with no timeouts remaining. I do see the logic as one more set of downs wins the game but no, this was far too risky.
Strangely enough, Drew Brees threw probably the best interception he will ever throw. Instead of turning it over on downs near midfield it was now back at the Carolina 30 (anyone sure why the defender actually caught it??). Those extra yards would prove crucial. Momentum suddenly swung from all Carolina to being in the balance. Completions helped Carolina march further into Saints territory. People were nervous, the crowd were loud, if I’m being completely honest when they completed it to Clay at our 26 I was fearing the worst, a defensive holding penalty added 5 more.
Then it happened. Cameron Jordan stepped up, as he does so often, especially against his name sake Newton and forced that intentional grounding penalty. The pressure was brilliant, Newton was running scared. This not only pushed them back 13 yards but also wiped plenty of seconds off the clock (10 second run off rule). Momentum had swung, for the final time. Thanks to the REAL super Cam. A further incomplete pass, which was close by the way, and a Vonn Bell sack finished the job. The Saints were headed to Minneapolis, for the second, but hopefully not final time this season.
I hope the Saints can carry that momentum from the end of the Panthers game into the divisional round. Start fast, hold the lead, not chasing the game and get things done. Is it Sunday yet?
It will be a different situation on Sunday, no Dome field advantage, Vikings screaming for revenge of the 2009 season NFC Championship game. I’m glad it’s indoors though, have you seen the weather forecast? Proper cold that is (I’m not getting into the Fahrenheit vs Celsius debate…..) but it will be COLD outside.
I kind of think it being quieter for the Saints D will help them, I’m not saying it’s bad when it’s loud because it definitely helps put off the opposing offensive but they are young and inexperienced at this level and need to actually hear their play calls too. Whereas Drew Brees has done it all before, he’s used to hostile atmospheres, he is a Superbowl champion, a bit of noise won’t affect him, can’t see guys like Kamara and Thomas being phased either, they far too cool.
Don’t see the regular season game as a factor either, that was week 1 Saints, this is January Saints.
Too early for a predictions as I change my mind every other hour at the moment. All I know is that it will be a battle and hopefully we can come out on top.
Let’s go Saints. Who Dat!