It’s been one of the recurring stories of the season – just needing to make one more play. This time it was a 3rd down sack with the Panthers driving to tie or take the lead with 2:25 remaining in the 4th that had Carolina asking what if.
Down three, the Panthers’ offense that was able to put points on the board on all of their drives but one, started what they hoped to be a game-winning drive. They were able to get all the way to the Saints’ 38, before Bridgewater was sacked for an 8-yard loss. Kicker Joey Slye took the field for the 65-yard field goal attempt that came up just a few feet short.
“Obviously disappointed with the result,” Panthers Head Coach Matt Rhule said after the loss. “Great football game, back and forth. Had a chance to win it…you have to make one more play in the fourth quarter and we were not able to make that play at the very end.”
“It’s a tough one to let get away from you,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater added. “That was a good football team we played against and we were a few plays away, but in this league being a few plays away can get you beat.”
While the sack that put the Panthers out of game-tying field-goal position was a crucial play, it wasn’t what led to the loss. The offense largely held their own. It was Carolina’s defense that gave up 415 total yards – 75 more their average this season. The Saints converted 12-14 third downs – many of which were five yards or longer. Running back Alvin Kamara finished with 148 yards from scrimmage and Drew Brees picked apart Carolina’s zone defense that was without starting cornerback Rasul Douglas and safety Juston Burris.
“They did a great job of converting some third and longs,” Rhule said. “Kamara made it tough. They won verse man to man. I think in the first half they were 6-of-6 on third down and 3-of-3 in the red zone – areas that we pride ourselves on. I think when you play Drew Brees you have to know he is going to be efficient. He was efficient. We didn’t make the plays or call the plays. Just a team effort on our end to get them off the field.”
“We just have to execute the calls,” Shaq Thompson said when asked about the defense’s struggles on third down. “We have to win first and second down early in the ball game. Most of the third downs came to third-and-short, third-and-two. Then on the ones on the third-and-long, we have to convert those. Give credit to them, they came out there and won every third down, we just have to do better.”
The Panthers will have to put this loss behind them quickly. The Falcons come to town Thursday night for another NFC South showdown.
- The Panthers are now 25-26 against the Saints all-time in the regular season.
- DE Brian Burns racked up his third strip-sack of the season in the second quarter against the Saints. Burns finished the game with 7 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble and 1 pass defensed. He now has 3.0 sacks and 3 forced fumbles this season – both team highs.
- WR DJ Moore scored on a 74-yard catch in the second quarter. It marked the longest touchdown of his career, and the second longest reception (82 yards at DET, 11/18/18). Moore finished the game with a team-high 93 receiving yards on four receptions (23.3 avg). His two touchdowns matched his career high, previously accomplished on Nov. 24, 2019 against New Orleans.
- In his first game at New Orleans as quarterback of the Carolina Panthers, QB Teddy Bridgewater finished the game with a 128.3 passer rating – his highest in a game this season. Bridgewater threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-28 passing (82.1 comp. %).
- WR Curtis Samuel continued his third-down success with three catches coming on third down, each resulting in first downs. Samuel finished the game with six total receptions for 48 yards and added a 5-yard rushing touchdown on his only carry of the game.