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Many of the Saints’ problems haunt team in season finale

In the season finale, the same problems that cost this team a playoff spot reared its ugly head one last time.

Carolina Panthers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In a season that started with high expectations and then quickly turned into some real disappointments and what ifs, the New Orleans Saints were on a 3-game winning streak heading into the season finale at home against the Carolina Panthers. The Saints started things off pretty quickly as Andy Dalton found rookie sensation Chris Olave on a 20-yard touchdown strike to put the Saints up 7-0. Olave who finished the game with 5 catches for 60 yards, made Saints history as he became only the third player in Saints history to record 1,000 yards as a rookie, joining prolific receivers Marques Colston and Michael Thomas. Olave seems to be wide receiver one for this club going forward.

After the opening drive, the Saints offense would struggle for the remainder of the game, as that has been the main issue for this team this year. The Saints inability to constantly put-up points has costed this team in a year full of missed opportunities. The offense has inconsistently been shadowed by Pete Carmichael’s suspect play calling all season and questionable game situational management. The defense did what it was supposed to do today. They limited Sam Darnold to 43 yards and only allowed 10 points, however the Panthers had quite the day on the ground as most teams have had against the Saints this year. The Panthers rushed for 171 yards on the ground, including several would’ve been sacks by this defense. Tyrann Mathieu recorded another interception right before halftime to keep the Saints 7-0 lead, and this is a guy who just looks more comfortable and has finally found his role in this defense in the second half of the season.

Trevor Penning got the start at left tackle today with James Hurst sliding into guard. Penning looked like a man on a mission in the run blocking game. Once the game film comes out, we can get a more in-depth look, but just from what happened during the game Penning looks like he can handle left tackle duties in the NFL. Penning would get hurt late into the game and headed into the locker room with a foot injury. Late in the game Wil Lutz had a chance to ice it for the Saints and end the season on a positive note. Lutz ended up attempting a 55-yard field goal and missed it giving the Panthers the field position needed to kick the go-ahead field goal to win 10-7. Lutz has had a very uncharacteristic season, going 23-29 for 79.3 % which is now a career low in his field goal percentage.

In the end a stale and just bad offense, poor run defense, lack of pass rush, and just coaching in general not only costed the Saints this game, but this has been the story about this team throughout the season. With what will almost certainly be a very important offseason coming up, the Saints must decide what kind of team are they going to be.

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