New Orleans Saints (4-5) vs Carolina Panthers (3-6)
8:25pm ET on NBC and NFL Network
The New Orleans Saints on Sunday blew a 7-point 3rd quarter lead over the Denver Broncos, getting outscored 15-6 in the 4th quarter, to lose 25-23, with the margin of victory coming on a blocked extra point returned for 2 points in the game’s final 90 seconds. Ouch. The Saints outgained the Broncos by 37 yards, sacked Trevor Siemian 6 times, and picked him off twice, but the Broncos dominated time of possession thanks to 4 Saints turnovers, 2 on picks of Drew Brees, one of which led to a Denver field goal, and 2 more on 4th-quarter fumbles by rookie receiver Michael Thomas, which were converted into 10 Denver points. The Saints essentially spent the day setting their own hair on fire.
Brees is having yet another monster year, putting him on target to break 5,000 yards and 40 TDs for the third time in his career, Mark Ingram continues to do a little bit of everything – rushing, receiving – and will likely again break 1,000 total yards, and receiver Brandin Cooks is on pace for another 1,000-yard season. But the defense, which allowed the most points in the NFL last year, has barely improved, allowing just .6 points per game less than before. They’re particularly susceptible to the pass, giving up 2,634 yards in the air, which is more than Andrew Luck, Andy Dalton, or Derek Carr.
After jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the second quarter, the Carolina Panthers were starting to look maybe a little like the team that had gone to the Super Bowl. But then it all came crashing down, as they allowed the Chiefs to score 20 unanswered points, including 17 in the 4th quarter, to win 20-17 and drop the Panthers’ record to 3-6. It was Carolina’s fourth loss by a field goal or less, and another tough day in a season of tough days for Cam Newton, who completed just 23 of 38 for 261 yards and a TD, but also threw a crucial pick-6 in the 4th quarter that pulled the Chiefs within 3 with about 10 minutes to go.
Carolina, too, has seen their D bring nothing to the table. After allowing just 19.3 ppg in their run to the Super Bowl, they’re now surrendering 25.1 ppg. The obvious big difference is the departure of Josh Norman via free agency, but DT Kawaan Short isn’t getting to the QB the way he did in 2015 – last year he had 11 sacks, this year he’s on pace for 5. There’s plenty of blame to spread around.
Here we have a couple of teams with pretty good offenses led by All Pro-level QBs, but weak running games, and bad defenses, so the air should be heavy with pigskins flying hither and yon. When the dust settles, however, the Saints will be back at .500, and the Panthers will be even deeper in the cellar of the NFC South.
Watch the Saints vs Panthers at 8:25pm ET on NBC and NFL Network by subscribing to Sling Blue