The New Orleans Saints survived their 3rd straight road game, a white-knuckle 12-9 win over the division rival Carolina Panthers on Monday Night Football. The Saints had to overcome a desperate rival clinging to slim playoff hopes, a league office that scheduled them to play three consecutive road games in a pivotal part of the year, along with pathetic officiating to come away with their 12th win of the season and a firm hold on the conference's top seed entering the playoffs. New Orleans also had to overcome themselves, and another lackluster offensive performance. The Saints failed to score a first half touchdown for the third game in a row, and their once formidable passing attack again struggled. They did have 346 total yards offensively, but it was once again their defense that proved to be the difference in the game. The Saints defensive line played well at the point of attack, forcing some key holding penalties and pressuring the Panthers backfield well along the edge. New Orleans held the Panthers to only 247 total yards, forced two key turnovers, and did not allow a second half point for the third game in a row. Here are some of the key performers from this hard fought battle.
Apple had one of the plays of the game when he intercepted a Cam Newton pass intended for Devin Funchess in the end zone during the waning seconds of the first half. Apple finished the night with 3 tackles and a number of crucial and acrobatic pass breakups. He teamed with Marshon Lattimore and the secondary to hold Panthers wideouts to a combined six receptions for just 50 yards, including a shutout of Funchess. The secondary as a whole limited Carolina's passing game to less than 150 net yardage and just 55% completion percentage. Apple's addition to this defense via trade in late October has fortified the defense's secondary, and allows them to play aggressive coverage against any receiving corps.
Bell has been an underrated standout on the Saints defense most of the season. He showed up huge on the stat sheet Monday night though, with 7 tackles, a key sack, and a huge forced fumble. Bell's brilliant second half strip of Panthers receiver D.J. Moore stopped a Carolina scoring drive and helped set up the win. He helped provide solid coverage on receivers and tight ends all evening, while mixing in effective blitzes in addition to his sack. Bell has been part of vastly improved safety play, along with Marcus Williams, that have all but eliminated deep plays and contained the passes completed in front of them.
Davis led the team with 8 tackles, and led a solid performance from the entire linebacking corps. He added a sack on a well-timed first half blitz that ended a Panthers drive, and two important pass breakups. He spearheaded a defensive effort that held the dynamic Christian McCaffrey to 120 combined rushing and receiving yardage. Davis, Alex Anzalone, and A.J. Klein combined for 17 tackles, Davis' sack, numerous quarterback pressures, and a fumble recovery (Klein) as they shut down the Panthers in the middle of the field as the game progressed.
Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram helped fuel a Saints running game that ended with 155 yards on 32 attempts. Kamara scored the team's only touchdown on a 16-yd. scamper around the right side, and finished with a game high 67 yards rushing while adding 36 yards receiving and a 50-yd. kickoff return. Despite the Saints struggles in the passing game, this team again showed that it is capable of winning any type of game. This time, it was a defensive slugfest against a physical rival. The Saints benefited from outstanding play on every level of their defense, one that has shown that they are a championship level unit after early season struggles.
Who had the biggest performance in the Saints edging of Carolina?
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