With one game to go, the Saints are still alive for the playoffs
It was down to two games in the NFL regular season and teams are running out of time to make the playoffs. The New Orleans Saints had to win out and hope for some help for a chance at the postseason. The slim road to the playoffs started with a home game against the Carolina Panthers for New Orleans. The Saints were getting several players back after they missed last week’s game against the Miami Dolphins on the COVID-19 reserve list.
The first quarter ended with a 3-3 score, with New Orleans once again failing to score a touchdown on their opening drive. The Panthers, which started Sam Darnold ahead of Cam Newton, moved the ball efficiently against the Saints’ defense.
The second quarter would see the first touchdown of the game, with Chuba Hubbard running in from about 19 yards out to give Carolina a 10-3 lead. The Saints’ defense would force and recover a fumble by Sam Darnold inside the Panthers’ red zone, with New Orleans squandering the opportunity but scoring a field goal to make the score 10-6 Carolina.
The Saints’ defense would keep Carolina in check for the remainder of the first half, and Taysom Hill and the Saints would engineer a masterful field goal drive from their own 4-yard line to narrow the Panthers’ lead to one point at halftime, and a 10-9 lead for Carolina.
In the third quarter, the Saints’ offense continued to underwhelm, while the defense flexed its muscles, routinely forcing the Panthers into punts deep in their own territory. New Orleans would eventually find some offensive success and make yet another field goal to take a 12-10 lead late in the third quarter.
The Saints would take their slim lead into the fourth quarter, where they would finally score a touchdown on a swing pass from Taysom Hill to Alvin Kamara. A missed extra point made the score 18-10 New Orleans, midway through in the fourth.
New Orleans ‘ defense would then go on a sacking spree against Sam Darnold, holding the Panthers scoreless the rest of the game, and winning the game 18-10 to improve to 8-8 on the season. The Saints are still alive for a playoff berth.
Below is a live quarter-by-quarter description of how the game unfolded:
Saints win the toss and defer and Panthers start with the ball. Carolina converts a 3rd-and-5 on their first drive and the Panthers move easily into Saints’ territory with Sam Darnold throwing the ball. Darnold gets the Panthers in the red zone with quick throws, but Carolina stalls near the 10-yard line and settles for a field goal. Panthers make the 32-yard kick.
NO: 0 – CAR: 3
Saints return the kickoff to the 25-yard line and begin the game with a short gain by Alvin Kamara. On the second play of the game, a swing pass to Kamara goes all the way to midfield for 29 yards. Taysom Hill finds Kamara again for a first down to the Panthers’ 28-yard line. Marquez Callaway drops a second down pass and the Saints face a 3rd-and-12. An inside screen play to Kamara gains only six yards and Saints settle for a field goal. Brett Maher makes a 41-yard field goal.
NO: 3 – CAR: 3
Panthers return the kickoff to their 19-yard line and Carolina gains a first down running the ball. After a sack of Darnold by Cam Jordan, the Saints jump offside on two consecutive plays. On 3rd-and-3, Darnold finds Abdullah for a first down at the 43-yard line. Panthers face a 2nd-and-8 as the quarter ends.
Panthers convert for a first down into Saints’ territory. and continue moving the ball efficiently. Panthers run the ball with Chuba Hubbard and score a touchdown.
Chuba Hubbard gives Carolina the lead in New Orleans!
— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2022
NO: 3 – CAR: 10
Deonte Harris returns the kickoff to the 30-yard line. Saints go three-and-out and punt.
Panthers start at their 20-yard line. On third down, P.J. Williams sacks Darnold who fumbles, Marcus Davenport recovers at the Panthers’ 13-yard line.
Saints can do nothing with the opportunity and settle for a field goal.
NO: 6 – CAR: 10
Panthers start at their 25-yard line. Carolina faces a 3rd-and-6 and Cam Jordan sacks Darnold for the second time of the game. Panthers punt.
Saints begin at their 20-yard line and gain 7 yards on first down on a pass to Callaway. New Orleans then loses 4 yards on second down. On 3rd-and-7, Hill finds Callaway for 30 yards into Panthers territory. Saints face a 3rd-and-12 and Hill gets sacked by Derrick Brown. Saints punt.
Panthers start at their 16-yard line and gain 16 yards on a first down run by Ameer Abdullah. Carolina faces a 3rd-and-9 and Darnold throws an incompletion after a failed screen play. Saints get the ball back after the two-minute warning.
New Orleans begins inside their own 5-yard line. Saints run the ball twice for a one-yard loss. On 3rd-and-11, Taysom Hill finds Marquez Callaway for 28 yards. Hill then finds Lil’Jordan Humphrey near midfield. Saints spike the ball on first down and on 3rd-and-10, Hill finds Callaway for another catch inside Panthers territory. Hill throws to Lil’Jordan Humphrey inside Carolina 30-yard line and spike the ball to attempt a field goal. After an offside penalty on the Panthers, Brett Maher makes a 41-yard field goal as time expires in the first half.
NO: 9 – CAR: 10
Saints begin at their 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff. Saints get 4 yards on a run in the first play of the half, getting their total rushing yards of the game to zero. Callaway for a first down. Saints move into Panthers’ territory on a Hill run. Hill then finds Deonte Harris for another first down inside the 30-yard line. Saint face a 3rd-and-8 and an intentional grounding on Taysom Hill pushes the Saints outside of field goal range. Saints punt.
Panthers begin inside their 10-yard line. Carolina gains a yard on the first two plays and on third down, Darnold’s pass is short and Panthers have to punt. Deonte Harris returns the punt to the Panthers’ 47-yard line.
Saints run the ball to start their drive and gain 3 yards. On 3rd-and-6, Hill’s throw falls incomplete and Saints punt again. Blake Gillikin pins the Panthers inside their 10-yard line again.
Panthers take over at their 9-yard line and lose two yards on a first down running play. On 3rd-and-10, a screen play loses yards again and Panthers have to punt again. Deonte Harris returns the punt at the Panthers’ 38-yard line.
Saints begin with a Taysom Hill run for six yards. On second down, Hill runs inside the red zone to the 15-yard line. On 3rd-and-7, Hill’s pass to Juwan Johnson is high and falls incomplete. Brett Maher makes a 33-yard field goal.
NO: 12 – CAR: 10
Panthers begin at their 25-yard line and Darnold finds D.J. Moore for a 20-yard gain against zone defense. On 3rd-and-5, Darnold finds Terrace Marshall for a first down as the quarter ends.
Panthers have the ball at the Saints’ 42-yard line and Carolina moves the ball to the 30-yard line. On 3rd-and-11, Saints hold Carolina short and Lirim Hajrullahu misses a 47-yard field goal wide right, as the Saints take over on downs.
Saints take over at their 32-yard line and lose one yard on a running play. Hill finds Harris to set up a 3rd-and-2 and Hill finds Adam Prentice for a first down. Alvin Kamara then goes for his longest run of the game, 30 yards to the Panthers’ 20-yard line. Hill then runs for nearly 10 yards to the 11-yard line. On 3rd-and-1, Hill finds Alvin Kamara for a touchdown. Brett Maher misses the extra point.
Taysom Hill hits Alvin Kamara for the @Saints TD!
— NFL (@NFL) January 2, 2022
NO: 18 – CAR: 10
Panthers begin at their 25-yard line and face 3rd-and-11 and Kwon Alexander and Cam Jordan sack Sam Darnold, forcing Carolina to punt.
Saints begin at their 40-yard line and Taysom Hill is sacked by Jeremy Chinn on first down for a 7-yard loss. Saints quickly face a 3rd-and-20. Saints go nowhere and are frced to punt as well.
Panthers take over at their 22-yard line and gain a first down running the ball. Panthers are moving the ball as the two-minute warning hits. C.J. Gardner-Johnson sacks Darnold for a big 9-yard loss back into Panthers’ territory. On 3rd-and-19, Paulson Adebo commits a penalty giving a first down to Carolina. Cam Jordan sacks Darnold again, his third sack of the day. C.J. Gardner-Johnson picks Darnold off to seal the game.
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