Saints Lose Season Finale on a Walk-Off Field Goal
The Saints came into week 17 with nothing left to play for after they were eliminated last after the Vikings lost to the Packers. With that being said, neither of these teams were taking this as an opportunity to rest their starters as both teams started to play their best football in the last month of the season. This was an opportunity for both teams to build great momentum going into next season. With the stage set, let’s take a look at who shined in the regular season finale.
The Saints started the game on offense and it was a strong start indeed. Andy Dalton would lead the offense down the field with a nice balanced attack. Alvin Kamara was able to get involved in the run game. It was Chris Olave who was the star of the drive as he was able to catch a couple of balls and was able to scramble his way in for a touchdown. The catch and run also put Olave over 1,000 yards for the season. That score put the Saints up 7-0 early in the first quarter.
The Saints’ strength has been on the defensive side of the ball all season long and that was on display early in this game. The Saints were able to force a three-and-out and give the ball back to Dalton on the offense. The offense was able to move the chains a few times before having to punt it back to Carolina. Carolina's possession wouldn't last long again as the defense would come up with another three-and-out.
Dalton and the offense would come out for their third possession of the quarter as Taysom Hill and Kamara would use their legs to move the Saints deep into Panther territory. The first quarter would come to an end with the Panther trailing 7-0 and the Saints on the move once again.
As we entered the fourth quarter, the drive would stall as Dalton never saw Hill streaking down the sideline for a touchdown. The Saints would have to settle for a Will Lutz Field Goal attempt but it bounced off of the left upright and the Saints come up empty after a promising-looking drive.
The Saints’ defense picked up right where they left off against Philadelphia as they continued to smother the Panthers in the second quarter. They wouldn’t allow Darnold and the offense to get far before they forced another Carolina punt. Olave wasn’t the only rookie receiver making noise as Rashid Shaheed came alive with a couple of catches on the Saints’ ensuing possession. The Saints would march their way into Panther Territory once again before facing a fourth-and-one. The Saints would go for it but Kamara was Stuffed well short of the first down and the Saints come up empty again.
The Panthers seemed to have found a little momentum on the offensive side of the ball and were moving deep into Saints territory before Tyrann Mathieu would intercept Sam Darnold and returned it just shy of mid-field with 27 seconds left in the first half.
Dalton would move the ball quickly down the field with a couple of big strikes. Olave was doing his best to get the Saints closer to the end zone before the half but he coughed it the ball up. The Panthers would recover and time would expire with Saints leading 7-0.
The Panthers would begin the second half on offense and they picked up right where they left off. Dam Darnold led an impressive opening drive down with a nice mixture of run and pass. The Panthers faced a third-and-goal in which Sam Darnold would fumble before breaking the goal line. Unfortunately for the Saints, the Panthers would recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown. That score would tie it up at seven-a-piece.
The two teams would go on to trade a couple of punts as the third quarter trickled down under two minutes. The Saints would face fourth-and-short deep in their own territory as the third quarter would come to an end with the game tied 7-7.
The drive would continue in the fourth after a key conversion but the Saints would face another fourth down just shy of mid-field this time. The Panthers would jump offsides which allowed the drive to continue. The Saints would move into Panther Territory before a huge sack on third-and-long would kill the drive.
The fourth quarter would continue the same way as the majority of the game had with neither team being able to move the ball well enough to get into the end zone. Both teams would exchange a couple of punts as time ticked under seven minutes to go in the game. The Panthers couldn’t get anything going and would send it back to Dalton and the offense with just under four minutes to go in regulation.
The Saints were able to find a little bit of rhythm on offense as they picked up back-to-back first downs to get move ball just shy of mid-field. The drive featured a heavy dose of Alvis Kamara as he displayed a bruising style of running all day but the Saints faced a fourth-and-short going into the two-minute warning. The Saints couldn’t convert and would have to punt it right back to Carolina. The Saints' defense would come up big once again as Daniel Sorenson would intercept Darnold’s pass to set up the Saints inside Panther territory with 1:33 left in the game.
The Saints couldn't move the ball any further, so they would settle for a 55-yard Lutz field goal attempt but it was wide left. The Panther took over just shy of mid-field with two timeouts remaining. Darnold would put his team on his back with a nice run and a big throw to get the Panthers in field goal range with 11 seconds remaining. Eddy Pineiro would line up for the kick and it was up and good.
The Panthers win 10-7 on a walk-off field goal to improve to 7-10 on the season as the Saints finish at 7-10 as well. There will be a lot of questions that will need to be answered in the offseason for the Saints. Many are wondering if 7 wins is enough for Allen to keep his job but we will just have to wait until the off-season to find out.