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Saints Sack Bridgewater, Panthers 27-24

When the Panthers traveled down to The Big Easy for Sunday’s NFC South showdown with the Saints, they were a team on the mend. Coming off of last week’s loss to the Bears, the Panthers have been without a number of players due to injury and Covid/reserve. The secondary took a huge hit when starting safety Juston Burris went to injure reserve following a rib injury. To add insult to injury, starting cornerback Rasul Douglas was placed on the Covid/reserve list Friday – further depleting the secondary in a week where the team faced one of the most prolific passers in the NFL in Drew Brees.

Whether the depleted unit factored into the decision to play zone remains to be seen; however the Saints saw it and immediately took advantage. Brees completed nine consecutive passes to start the game and the Saints offense pretty much had their way. Brees and company were 12-of-14 on third down conversions for an efficiency of 86%. Coming into the game, this was a focal point; yet it still did not prevent the Saints from doing what they needed to do. In a show of just how dominant their offense was, the Saints went for the touchdown instead of the safe field goal as time wound down in the second quarter; despite the Panthers getting the ball to start the second half.

Without their top two receivers in Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Saints racked up 415 totals yards of offense. However, despite the third-down defensive parity, the Panthers still found themselves in striking distance late in the fourth quarter. A second quarter strip sack by defensive end Brian Burns led to a 7-yard touchdown reception by DJ Moore; his second of the afternoon after a 74-yard burner in the first quarter. Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel was also back in the lineup after missing last week’s game with a knee injury. Samuel added another speedster to the receiving corp and the backfield, rushing for his first touchdown of the season.

Samuel’s rushing touchdown was the lone bright spot for a running game that never really got out of the blocks against a stingy Saints defense. The Panthers were held to just 37 rushing yards but Bridgewater had a perfect passer rating for the first half. It came down to the fourth quarter; with the Panthers driving and facing 3rd & 11 from the Saints 39, Bridgewater was sacked for a loss of eight yards. Staring at 4th & 19 after the 2-minute warning, kicker Joe Slye attempted a would-be NFL record 65-yard field goal. Prior to the kick, the Saints played a little Jedi mind trick by playing Slye’s missed goal from last season on the Jumbotron.

Slye’s kick fell short and so did the Panthers comeback bid. Alvin Kamara’s 148 scrimmage yards, the Saints third-down, and time of possession dominance were too much to handle for a Panthers team that falls to 3-4 and 1-2 in the NFC South. Carolina will have a short turnaround as they prepare to host the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday Night Football.

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