Having secured the number one seed in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints (13-3) were welcoming the already-eliminated Carolina Panthers (7-9) in what amounted to a glorified preseason game late in the regular season. For the Saints who were resting several key starters, this was a game to get through while avoiding any devastating injuries. For Carolina, the goal was to try not to get swept by New Orleans for the second consecutive season.
The Saints would eventually lose 33-14 to the Panthers, ending the season at 13-3 and equaling their best regular season record of the Payton/Brees era. The team will now have a bye week to rest and recover before facing the lowest remaining seed in the divisional round of the playoffs two weeks from now.
Here is how the game unfolded:
Saints won the toss and deferred to the second half. Carolina started the game with a run by Christian McCaffrey. On the play, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins was hurt and left the game. Carolina would seamlessly get into Saints’ territory, against a New Orleans defense clearly playing not to get hurt. Kyle Allen would eventually sneak in the end zone from the one-yard line for a touchdown, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead after the PAT.
On the Saints’ first possession, Teddy Bridgewater takes his first regular season snap as a starter since 2015. On the first play, Mark Ingram gains 16 yards on the ground, then 16 more yards on a dump pass from Bridgewater. And because that’s how the cookie crumbles, Andrus Peat gets hurt on the play. Nobody on the Saints’ side wants to play in this game. Saints eventually stall at the Panthers’ 38-yard line and punt.
On their second possession of the game, the Panthers start at their 11-yard line. On a third down play, Eli Apple is called for a pass interference getting Carolina deep into Saints’ territory. The Panthers would eventually score a touchdown on a run by Cameron Artis-Payne, giving the Panthers a 13-0 lead after Chandler Catanzaro missed the PAT.
End zone! Cameron Artis-Payne is in for the @Panthers TD!— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2018
: FOX #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/y7WRvr7bhb
Saints take over at their own 25-yard line on their second possession of the game and are driving near midfield as the quarter ends.
Saints get into Panthers’ territory on a 10-yard run by Bridgewater on third down. Saints get into the red zone on receptions by Michael Thomas and runs by Mark Ingram. On 4th-and-2 from the Panthers’ 10-yard line, Bridgewater’s pass to Tre’Quan Smith falls incomplete, and the Saints turn the ball over on downs.
Panthers take over at their own 10-yard line. On third-and-10, Kyle Allen finds D.J. Moore for a 38-yard pass into Saints’ territory. On 4th-and-7 from the Saints’ 39-yard line, the Panthers go for it and convert. The Panthers would get into the red zone and Kyle Allen finds his tight end Ian Thomas for a touchdown, giving Carolina a 20-0 lead after the PAT. The Saints’ defense to this point, has allowed scoring drives of 75, 89 and 90 yards. Not exactly the way you want to end the regular season.
Saints take over at their 25-yard line with exactly 2:00 left in the half and promptly get an incomplete pass followed by a sack of Bridgewater by the 80-year old Julius Peppers. On 3rd-and-11, the Saints fail to convert as Bridgewater is tackled for a four-yard loss, giving Carolina the ball back with 1:38 left in the half.
Panthers take over at their own 30-yard line after Thomas Morstead’s punt. Carolina gets into the red zone on a pass interference on Ken Crawley. Panthers stall on third-and-goal and elect to kick a field goal. Chandler Catanzaro makes a 22-yard attempt, and the Panthers lead 23-0 at halftime.
Saints start at their 25-yard line after the kickoff and move up to midfield but stall and punt the ball.
Carolina takes over at its own 23-yard line and for the first time of the afternoon, go three-and-out and punt. The drive was thwarted in part by a hard hit from rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport on Kyle Allen on third down. The Saints would love it if Davenport could rediscover the form he was rounding into before he got hurt during the Minnesota game earlier in the season.
Saints take over at their own 20-yard line, and proceed to go three-and-out once again. Thomas Morstead is having quite a workload today.
Panthers get the ball at their 23-yard line as the game has entered full preseason mode, with backups at nearly every position. Panthers return the favor and go three-and-out as well. It’s a punt fest to start the second half.
Saints take over at their 28-yard line and go three-and-out again. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a PUNT!
Panthers take over at their 25-yard line. and move the ball to midfield on run plays to Cameron Artis-Payne. Kyle Allen finds Curtis Samuel for a 53-yard touchdown. After the PAT, the Panthers lead 30-0.
Kyle Allen goes DEEEEP!— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2018
: FOX #KeepPounding pic.twitter.com/9ZYWM84wDw
Saints take over at their own 25-yard line and move into Carolina territory on a pass to Tre’Quan Smith and a run by Dwayne Washington. Saints get into the red zone on a 26-yard run by Washington and New Orleans has a first-and-goal from the Panthers’ four-yard line as the quarter ends.
On 2nd-and-goal, Michael Thomas catches a six-yard pass and passes Joe Horn as the Saints franchise leader for single-season receptions yards.
.@Cantguardmike now owns the #Saints franchise record for receiving yards in a single season! pic.twitter.com/F2RBkUQ2Y0— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 30, 2018
On third-and-goal, Teddy Bridgewater finds Tre’Quan Smith for a touchdown. Saints now trail the Panthers 30-7.
Teddy Tossin' TDs— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2018
: FOX #GoSaints pic.twitter.com/UXzgMyYRLM
Panthers take over at their own 25-yard line after the kickoff. On third down, Marcus Davenport hits Kyle Allen who gets hurt. A holding penalty on Ken Crawley on the play gives Carolina a first down, and Garrett Gilbert enters the game at quarterback for the Panthers. Carolina gets into Saints’ territory on a screen pass by Gilbert to Ian Thomas. Panthers eventually stall and settle for a 51-yard field goal that Chandler Catanzaro converts, giving Carolina 33-7 lead.
Saints get the ball back at their 25-yard line and move the ball but Bridgewater is intercepted by Colin Jones, just inside Carolina’s side of the field. The throw was intended to a triple-covered Benjamin Watson, a bad decision by Bridgewater.
Panthers take over at their 48-yard line. On 4th-and-1 from the Saints’ 43-yard line, Panthers stall and turn the ball over to the Saints on downs. Saints run the ball effectively into Panthers’ territory and Taysom Hill caps the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. After the PAT, Saints now trail 33-14.
Taysom Hill refuses to go down and bounces off defenders for a 9-yard touchdown run!#CARvsNO pic.twitter.com/ek2W9XsiTW— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 30, 2018
Panthers take over at their own 25-yard line and run the ball as the clock drains towards the end of the game. Carolina goes three-and-out and line up to punt as the two-minute warning hits.
Saints take over at their 32-yard line and run the clock out running the ball. New Orleans loses 33-14 and ends the season with a 13-3 record.
FINAL: The @Panthers defeat the Saints! #KeepPounding#CARvsNO pic.twitter.com/BZT0gqhMD3— NFL (@NFL) December 30, 2018
How do you feel about the Saints following this 33-14 loss to the Panthers?
This poll is closed
Starters sat, I’m more worried about injuries
The defense still worries me, but I’m cautiously optimistic
I’m really worried now, the team hasn’t looked good in a while
We have Dome Field Advantage! Super Bowl here we come!
I was so bored, I ate 33 burgers during the game