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Saints vs Panthers

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The last time the New Orleans Saints made a playoff berth was in 2013 where they lost in the divisional against the Philadelphia Eagles. Since then, they have had a tenure of seasons that ended 7-9, being the reason behind the acclaimed “7-9 Curse”. However, the Saints went 11-5 this year in the regular season, earning themselves a playoff spot in the NFC division. Because they didn’t win the entire division, they had to play Carolina in the first round while the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles had bye weeks.

On Sunday, Cameron Newton and the Carolina Panthers traveled down to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Entering the game, the Saints had sweeped the Panthers in the regular season. However, many believed that the hard divisional losses would give the Panthers the upper hand in this game because of the level of motivation. Based on predictions and statistics, the Saints had a 69.9% chance to win the game before the ball was even snapped. The Saints started with the ball, giving the Panthers the ball at the beginning of the second half.

The first quarter was a constant trade of three-and-outs. Both teams couldn’t find a groove to get into each other’s endzones as they were shut down by thriving defenses. The only score coverted in the first quarter was a bomb to Ted Ginn Jr. for 80 yards that was set up by a hard stop by the Saints’ defense. The game was what most expected it to be; a nail-bitter.

Carolina’s first score came in the second quarter by Graham Gano’s field goal, putting the Panthers within four of their divisional rivals and that much closer to revenge. However, Drew Brees is known for pulling his team back into the game with his Hall of Fame caliber skills. In fact, he involves multiple recievers a game, including a TD pass to tight-end Josh Hill from nine yards out to give the Saints the mounting lead of 14-3. The only answer Carolina could muster against the Saints’ hot offense was yet another field goal by Graham Gano from 39 yards out. To make a run away in the game, the Saints scored another touchdown by a one yard rush from Zach Line as a dominate response. Unforutunately, for Panthers fans, Cam Newton could not find a comfortable groove as he only drove the field well enough to set up Graham Gano for, yes, another field goal from 58 yards out. With a 21-9 lead at half, the Saints were marching and had an 87.1% chance of heading to the second round of the playoffs. Pretty secure right? No, not against a high-powered offense with a star rookie and star quarterback.

The third quarter was duller than the first as both teams exchanged field goals. Although both scored, things were looking bright for Carolina as they figured ways to shut down Brees’ hot-hand and the dual threat of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Entering the fourth quarter, the Panthers were beginning to find a rhythm as it only took Cam Newton a little under four minutes to drive 68 yards with a result of a touchdown through the air to tight-end Greg Olson for fourteen yards. With a good PAT, the Panthers were on the coattails of the Saints as they now only trailed by 19-24. The Saints wouldn’t give it up easy though, responding with a two yard run by Alvin Kamara to find the endzone, making the score 31-19 and more difficult for the Panthers to pull off an upset. With 4:09 left in regulation, the Panthers put on a respectable drive of 75 yards in just 59 seconds and three plays, one of which was a 56 yard touchdown to the highly drafted rookie Christian McCaffery. Although it seemed like the Panthers could complete the comeback, the Saints’ defense strongly held their ground and sacked Cam Newton for -17 yards by Vonn Bell which kept the clock rolling until time ran out.

As the Saints barely escape the Carolina Panthers, they must turn their heads and quickly prepare for the powerhouse of the North, the Minnesota Vikings in US Bank Stadium, on Sunday, January 14th.

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Saints vs Panthers