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NFL Week 17 recap: Saints rout Panthers to clinch second seed in NFC

It looks like the Saints will be playing the Bears in the playoffs next weekend

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints are going to have some unfinished business in Wild Card Weekend.

The Saints throttled the Panthers 33-7 behind five interceptions from their defense and 150 rushing yards with all of their top running backs out.

Ty Montgomery rushed for 105 yards, while Emmanuel Sanders logged nine catches for 63 yards. Teddy Bridgewater was taken out of the game after being hampered by an injury earlier.

The win clinches the No. 2 seed for the Saints, meaning they’ll face off against the Chicago Bears, whose loss to the Packers clinched the Packers the No. 1 seed. The Saints went to overtime against the Bears in Chicago in Week 8, ultimately notching a 26-23 win. Next week, they’ll host the Bears in Chicago. Times are TBD.

Saints win the toss and elect to defer

Trey Hendrickson is BACK. On 3rd & 12, Hendrickson breaks through for his 13.5th sack of the season. Absolutely monster season for him.

After the punt, Tommylee Lewis has the ball up to the Panthers 42. Strong start to the final game of the season.

Good timing route from Drew Brees to Emmanuel Sanders to start. He hits Sanders on a curl to get the Saints ahead of the sticks.

On his first career carry, Tony Jones Jr. gets the Saints a first down on 3rd & 1. Big confidence booster for the Notre Dame rookie.

Saints come up a hair short on 3rd & 6 after a Ryan Ramczyk penalty. Brees hit Taysom Hill on a crossing route. On 4th & 1, Hill takes it up the middle for a first down. Great push from the Saints offensive line. Broadcast points out Ty Montgomery, Jones Jr. and Hill should be getting carries.

On the next play, Brees hits Jared Cook with a perfect 18-yard pass. Cook has been great down the stretch for the Saints this season. For the record, the timing and throw were perfect from Brees. Good to see those seam routes connect. Saints 7, Panthers 0.

Panthers have to burn a timeout on second and long with late personnel changes coming onto the field. Matt Rhule’s team is clearly still ironing out some kinks. Coming out of the timeout, Sheldon Rankins gives back some yardage with a neutral zone infraction.

Once again, the Saints get a huge push up front on third down. Cameron Jordan bats the pass down to force another three and out for Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers. Saints will get the ball at their own 20.

Saints dodge a huge bullet on 3rd and 5. Brees fumbles rolling out of the pocket but the ball gets batted out of bounds. Saints punt to the Panthers 36 where Bridgewater will take over.

On third down, Grant Haley gets called for pass interference after avoiding the pick play. Good effort, but inexperience shines through. On the next play, Bridgewater hits D.J. Moore for 14 yards and a first down. Bridgewater then hits Curtis Samuel for 26 to get down to the Saints 8-yard line.

After a Bridgewater scramble get the Panthers to the one, Rodney Smith punches it in for the Panthers. No. 35 for the Panthers is always a closer. Bridgewater came up limping after the give, should keep an eye on that. Saints 7, Panthers 7.

Tre Boston sacks Brees on 3rd & 6. Just no time to make any kind of play. Panthers will get the ball near midfield to start the second quarter after a second straight three and out.

Monster series for Demario Davis in the ensuing possession. On 2nd and 1 he stops Smith short of the marker before breaking up a pass on 3rd and 1. However, on 4th down the Panthers go for it and Smith picks up the first. The dangers of playing a team with nothing to lose.

INSANE jump on 2nd and short from Janoris Jenkins. He very nearly had a pick six but dropped it. Nearly an incredible play. Instead on 3rd and short Tommy Stevens picks up a first down up the middle.

HUGE momentum swing here. After Rhule challenged an incompletion to Moore in the end zone and lost, Malcolm Jenkins jumps a route and gets a pick with a big return. Bridgewater has been playing with fire for a while. It finally came back to bite him.

After slipping on second down, Ty Montgomery takes the pitch down to the Panthers 11 and rips off a big run. That’s three carries for 39 yards thus far for Montgomery.

Another great red zone play gets the Saints six more. Coming off of play action Brees hits a window to Sanders. Saints retake the lead just minutes after it looked like the Panthers would go ahead, but Wil Lutz shanks the extra point. Saints 13, Panthers 7.

The Panthers are struggling with handoffs today. A second fumble on the transaction puts them in a second down hole.

Haley vs. Samuel in the slot will always be a mismatch. Panthers get into Saints territory on a seed from Bridgewater.

Panthers burn their third and final timeout on 4th and 1. Need to regroup and figure out what they want to do. It works as Smith picks up another first down. Saints should expect the Panthers to go for 4th and short from here on out.

Panthers try to go for it again on 4th down, but this time the Saints hunker down to get the stop. Saints will get the ball back with the potential for a 2-minute drill.

The Saints have now hit Sanders on four consecutive passes. Within the two-minute warning, Brees keeps it rolling with a completion to Cook to get into Panthers territory.

Brees is errant on 3rd and 1 to get to fourth down. Saints look like they’ll try to attempt a field goal to end the half. Lutz is good this time to make it 16-7 Saints going into the half. They will receive coming out of it. Saints 16, Panthers 7.

Coming out of the half, Brees nearly gets picked off before hitting Marquez Callaway down the sideline for a big gain. The broadcast said Sean Payton wouldn’t consider resting Brees this half, but Hill is already getting a few touches this half.

On a 3rd and 6, Jeremy Chinn pressures Brees and Brees throws it away to force fourth down for the Saints. Lutz hits a 48-yard field goal for the Saints. Saints 19, Panthers 7.

Absolutely outrageous play by the Panthers. Bridgewater completes a pass to Moore for 44 yards between two Saints defenders. Incredible catch from Moore. The play gets undermined on Bridgewater’s next throw, where a dead ball is caught by Haley in the end zone for a touchback. Debilitating play for Carolina.

On the ensuing possession, Rhule uses his second challenge on a completion to Sanders. The call gets overturned, so the Panthers keep their timeout but they can’t challenge for the rest of the game.

It ends up being meaningless, as Brees hits Callaway on a slant for a big gain to the Saints 41. Tough break for the Panthers. Saints, however, will end up punting after a back-shoulder throw to Sanders falls incomplete. That’s the bad news, the good news is Brees put a perfect ball on him.

Bridgewater is now out of the game after that last interception, and P.J. Walker will take over for the Panthers. After a 6-yard run from Smith, Davis breaks up a pass from Walker. On 3rd and 4, Walker throws it behind Samuel and it’s dropped before picked off by Marshon Lattimore. The Panthers offense is unraveling quickly.

Hill takes the power run off-tackle for the Saints on second down to get the ball down to the Panthers six before punching it in. Honestly, if there’s one argument for keeping Brees in games it’s that Hill stops caring about his body when he’s not throwing it (kidding, there are lots of arguments). Saints 26, Panthers 7.

The Panthers offense is floundering. Coming off of the interception, Walker overthrows Moore and then Robby Anderson logs a drop. On third down the Saints bring heat and Walker nearly gets picked off again by Lattimore, and the Panthers will once again have to punt.

Ty Montgomery is continuing to run rather well for the Saints. He picks up a first down on his first carry of the drive. On another third down, Brees his Sanders on a curl to get Sanders to 60 catches. There’s his contract bonus.

Montgomery is still running well. On 3rd and 4 he takes the draw for yet another first down. Saints will head into the 4th quarter knocking on the door.

An... AUSTIN CARR SIGHTING? Brees hits Carr down the seam coming off of yet another play action. The Saints red zone offense has gotten significantly better as the season has gone on. It’s been similar play design every time today. Saints 33, Panthers 7.

On the ensuing possession, the Panthers drive with a healthy mix of Stevens and Smith. However, on third down Walker throws an incompletion on a drop. Panthers continue their struggles in the passing game. On fourth down, the Panthers go for it. Haley breaks up a pass to Anderson to get the ball back for the Saints.

Brees is still in the game for the Saints, gives to Montgomery to start the next drive. On a 3rd and 4, Brees gets tripped up and throws to nobody. Saints forced to punt on fourth down. Kind of scary seeing a guy get caught up like that.

Panthers start driving with a big pass to Anderson. Hill is walking off the field as well. Hopefully things are OK there.

Carl Granderson gets a sack for the Saints on a house pass rush. Walker had nowhere to go.

On the next play, the Saints bring more pressure and P.J. Williams gets the Saints fourth interception of the game. Not a good showing for Panthers QBs.

Jameis Winston takes the field for the Saints. And the Saints immediately run the ball three times and punt after Winston gets an unsportsmanlike conduct.

Ken Crawley gets interception No. 5 for the Saints. Yes, you read that right, and yes, this was published in 2021.

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