Drew Brees threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns as the Saints secured the No. 2 seed in the NFC to end the regular season with a 33-7 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
A season-high five interceptions by the Panthers gave the New Orleans defense one of the best games in recent memory and without the backfield of Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray due to COVID-19. But still managed 156 yards rushing with a majority coming from Ty Montgomery, who finished with 18 carries for 105 yards.
The Saints (12-4) will host a wildcard match-up with the seventh-seeded Chicago Bears next Sunday at 4:40 p.m. ET.
“We have had various guys go down in a key positions,” Brees said. “We were dealt kind of a crazy hand this week, but it says so much about our team and how we were able to respond.”
As for the Panthers (5-11), another loss to close out a lackluster season riddled with injuries, personnel issues and Coronavirus complications. All-Pro Christian McCaffrey missed 13 games due to injury, the first time he missed any length of time during his four-year career. He rushed for 225 yards, along with six total touchdowns in three games this season.
“Obviously, it was a tough season for me,” McCaffrey said Monday.
Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short missed significant time with a shoulder injury for a second straight season, but is unsure of his future plans.
“That’s a discussion we’ll have in the next couple of weeks or so,” Short said. “It’s a business. I’ll take it with a grain of salt if they don’t or do.”
Teddy Bridgewater split time under center with P.J. Walker on Sunday. The duo combined to go 18-of-37 for 246 yards and the five picks; two from Bridgewater and three from Walker in a backup effort. Panthers coach Matt Rhule took Bridgewater out because he felt his throwing motion altered by an ankle injury.
“I didn’t think he looked real healthy to me,” Rhule said.
A 320 yards of total offense for the Panthers with their only touchdown coming from Rodney Smith’s 1-yard run to tie the game at seven late in the first quarter. New Orleans took a 16-7 lead going into halftime before adding another two touchdowns in the final two quarters. A second consecutive game Carolina was shutout in the second half and fourteenth quarters being held scoreless overall.
The Panthers wrapped up 2020-21 losing nine of the past eleven games with two wins coming at Bank of America Stadium. After failing to make the playoffs for the third straight season, Carolina looks to upgrade with the eighth overall pick in April’s 2021 NFL Draft. The second time they’ll draft in the top ten in four years.
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