A Wil Lutz field goal as time expired led the Saints to a 34-31 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the Superdome on Sunday. From cruising at a 14-0 lead, the Saints contrived to but ultimately failed to beat themselves in this one, fortunately Panthers kicker Joey Slye missed 2 extra points and a field goal from 28 yards out with 2 minutes remaining. Drew Brees then does what Drew Brees does with a perfect 2-minute drill, hitting Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara to set up Lutz from 33 yards away. Some questionable officiating (to say the least) and some very poor disciple was a big factor in this one, luckily the refs, Panthers and the Saints themselves couldn’t force the defeat and the Saints go marching on to 9-2. Let’s see who was good, bad and downright ugly in this game.
Much better from Drew and crew this week, penalties aside. I think they left some points on the field here too. They need to produce the same on the short week game at those dirty birds on thanksgiving.
Let’s start with the man that controlled that final drive, Drew Brees. He was back to his best in this one (30/39 for 311 and 3TDs). He attempted some deeper passes the non-Saints media have been pushing for, annoyingly some receivers (Ted Ginn Jr….) dropped them. He was accurate, found players in tight windows and hit the right guys in the right places time and again, especially within the last 2 minutes. There were different types of throws, slants, screens and a perfect back shoulder fade to Michael Thomas on 3-and-6 during the final drive. Drew is back.
Can’t guard Michael Thomas. Another 100-yard game (101 in-fact) for the receiver but still not in the MVP candidate talk from mainstream media as he isn’t a quarterback. Thomas always comes up clutch when he is needed and so it proved again. Imagine if the Saints had two of him or at least half a CGM their production in the pass game would be unreal. A nice TD catch from Thomas where he gets the feet down after another Brees laser pass.
I loved what we saw from Jared Cook. He is looking like guy we thought he would be. Another touchdown on the day for Cook with just a tick under 100 yards himself. One catch in particular, no one else on the team would have caught, he needed all of his 6 feet 5 frame to go up and get it. If he can continue this current run of form the saints may have a reliable 2nd option besides Thomas.
Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray had productive days themselves. AK41 again over 100 yards (102) from scrimmage and Murray looked unstoppable early on in this one. For some reason the offense went away from using Murray after the half, he was so productive before and got the Saints first opening drive TD score. The run game was established then removed which was strange. Kamara too was instrumental in the final drive with short catches and a long one with yards after catch to reduce the FG range for the clutch Wil Lutz.
I didn’t enjoy a lot of the offensive lines play. They started well and only gave up two sacks but as soon as Tony Romo praised them, they started giving up penalties for days. Holds, false starts and a hilarious one where everyone bar the superb Erik McCoy moved while he was a statue. The penalties MUST be cleared up before the postseason because they are drive killers and really hurt the team. Losing Terron Armstead to yet another injury didn’t help.
Not a good one on this side of the ball. Yes, the Panthers have some playmakers but one of them shouldn’t be Kyle Allen. The panthers QB hit 3 touchdown passes on the day with Christian McCaffrey and DJ Moore both having big games too. So many penalties again. Let’s start with the good before moving on to the others…
Demario Davis still manages to get better every week. I don’t know how. Leading from the front again, he totalled a team high 11 tackles, a sack, a tackle for a loss and a pass defensed. He was a constant pest for Carolina and made it difficult for them on offense at times. The importance he has to the team is huge, I just hope he keeps himself healthy for the stretch because boy do the Saints need him.
Marcus Davenport came up big time on a 3rd down sack to push the Panthers field goal back from which they eventually missed. Had they made a small gain on that play, there is no way Slye misses it. Good work by Davenport there.
The rush defence again didn’t allow a 100-yard rusher. CMC was effective from scrimmage but this tended to be from swing passes or screens. On the ground he only got 64 yards on 22 carries (2.9 a carry) which is an excellent hold. The lack of coverage on the Panthers best player was as worry however.
The RedZone D actually stopped Carolina on 6 straight attempts as the clock ticked by. Then got called for a DPI on review even though these reviews rarely get overturned, because it was the Saints, it did. Everyone knew it would be and although it was a slight interference it was nothing on what happened in the Texans/Ravens game the other day which stood as called. The NFL really needs to sort out this PI reviewing system because no one has a clue what is or isn’t PI anymore and sometimes when it is the officials ignore it anyway.
The secondary got burned on multiple occasions by Allen and DJ Moore linking up, especially PJ Williams who didn’t have a great game. This team really need Marshon Lattimore back from injury because he is just so much better than others and makes this defense one of the better ones in the league on it’s day. The Saints can’t seem to get both sides of the ball working in the same game. As Drew Brees mentioned that there is more to come from the Saints and they haven’t produced a complete game yet.
A good performance on this side of the ball, without the return game of Deonte Harris, there wasn’t a lot in that aspect but they came up with the plays when required.
Wil Lutz is money. Having a reliable kicker is such a big thing in the NFL and here is proved so again. Lutz made all of his PATs and hit two field goals including the game winner as time expired. Compared to Slye for the Panthers who left 5 points on the field for Carolina. I have confidence every time he steps up to kick and this was his 2nd game winner at the Superdome this season. I trust in Wil going down the stretch and into the playoffs. Ice in his veins, BIG NUTZ LUTZ.
One play that also stood out was on punt coverage. JT Gray recovered a muffed catch by Carolina and set up the Saints in excellent field position to extent their lead at the time to 14-0.
I have to be honest and say I didn’t enjoy this game (1st quarter aside). The constant penalties, the stress and anxiety but ultimately one of the best ways to win made up for it in the end. A huge sigh of relief to keep the Saints rolling. When San Francisco come into town in 2 weeks, the Saints must up their game. Just the small matter of a Thanksgiving showdown before that. Let’s hope the Black and Gold have learned from their mistakes of the reserve game a few weeks ago and get the W in Atlanta.
Until next time……