The New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Wildcard round, 31-26. Here are all the highlights, the game recap and the final score.
Wild Card Weekend in the NFL was certainly wild. All the games lived up to the billing, so there was no doubt the final game of the weekend slate would be fantastic. It came down to the final series, but the New Orleans Saints were able to beat their division rival Carolina Panthers for the third time this season, this time in the NFC Wild Card round, 31-26.
New Orleans took a 21-9 lead into halftime. Cam Newton and the Panthers offense struggled in the red zone for most of the evening, having to settle for Graham Gano field goals over Panthers touchdowns.
While the Panthers defense did a fine job of holding the vaunted Saints rushing attack of Mark Ingram Jr. and Alvin Kamara to just 41 combined rushing yards, Carolina had no answer for Drew Brees and the passing game or Cameron Jordan and the New Orleans pass rush.
It was going to be insanely difficult for the NFC South champions to beat their division rival three times in a season, but here we are. Newton certainly played better as a passer than he did in Week 17 versus the division rival Atlanta Falcons. However, it was an inability to generate pressure on Brees that proved most costly.
New Orleans was the better and more complete team all year. That being said, it was nice to see the Panthers give the Saints a run for their money. Winning on the road at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is tremendously difficult as is, let alone when the Saints are playing great ball. Carolina had its chance to take the ball game, but keeping Brees and the offense out of the end zone was the bane of the Panthers season.
For the third straight meeting, Carolina surrendered more than 30 points to the Saints offense. New Orleans is balanced and could definitely represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis on Feb. 4. Carolina was a solid team this year, but frankly wasn’t consistent enough offensively or in pass defense to win multiple playoff games, let alone one.
We wanted a great game between these two bitter NFC South rivals and we certainly got it. It’ll be interesting to see if this game has any draining factor on the Saints next week. Maybe the Panthers carry a huge grudge on New Orleans heading into the 2018 NFL season?
- Drew Brees: Brees completed 23 of 33 passes for 376 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
- Cam Newton: Newton completed 24 of 40 passes for 349 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Newton also had eight carries for 37 yards.
- Michael Thomas: Thomas had eight catches for 131 yards.
For No. 4 New Orleans, the Saints will travel to Minneapolis to take on the No. 2 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional round. Kickoff from U.S. Bank Stadium will be at 4:40 p.m. ET on Jan. 15. FOX will have that national telecast. It looks like the Saints will have to play in the Twin Cities twice two win potentially their second Lombardi Trophy.
As for Carolina, it’s full steam to the 2018 NFL Draft. The Panthers join the Kansas City Chiefs, the Los Angeles Rams and the Buffalo Bills as 2017 NFL playoff teams that lost on Wild Card Weekend. Fortunately, Carolina doesn’t have a ton of holes on its roster.