Saints-Panthers Three and Out


During the week, coach Sean Payton shook up his team with personnel moves. He shook up the game plan with trick plays. The result was a contest in which the Saints dominated total yardage, third-down conversions and time of possession. And yet it wasn’t enough as New Orleans came up short in a 17-13 loss at the Carolina Panthers. The Saints lost the turnover battle, surrendered six sacks (tying the most in a game in the Payton era) and couldn’t come up with the big stop or first down when they needed them. If you feel déjà vu from the New England game, you’re not alone.


“The Drive” vs. “The Drive.” If the Saints had won, their 97-yard drive to take a 13-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter would have gone down as one of the greatest in team history. As it is, the Panthers thundered 65 yards downfield in 32 seconds for one of the most remarkable drives in that franchise’s mostly unremarkable history. It’s true what they say about history being written by the winners. They’ll be talking about how Cam Newton led his team to that 14-yard touchdown pass to Domenik Hixon for years. If it’s a sign of Newton’s growth as a QB, it’s an unsettling one for the Saints.


All is not lost for the Saints, it just seems that way for the moment. That’s what happens when control of your fate is wrenched out of your hands for the first time in the entire season. There are still things the Saints can control. If they win at home next Sunday against Tampa Bay, they’re still in the playoffs and even retain a chance to win the division and the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs if Carolina loses at Atlanta. But this season to date hasn’t been about wishing and hoping for the Saints, it’s been about imposing their will. Not anymore.

Scott Rabalais