Saints beat Panthers 33-7, lock up no. 2 seed
The Saints limped in to Carolina missing their entire running back room and two of their safeties, but ended up routing the Panthers, 33-7, to clinch the no. 2 seed in the NFC.
The absence of star RB Alvin Kamara (and the rest of the RBs) due to COVID-19 safety protocols didn’t slow down Drew Brees and the Saints offense. Brees looked sharp, finishing with 201 yards and 3 TDs and wide receiver/fill-in running back Ty Montgomery capped the day with 105 yards on the ground. Emmanuel Sanders finished with 9 catches for 63 yards and a score, earning him a $500,000 incentive.
With their win over the Panthers Sunday, the Saints are the first team in NFC South history to sweep their entire divisional slate (the division was formed in 2002). The Saints end the season at 12-4 for the first time since 1992. Previously, they had never finished 12-4 under Sean Payton. The defense came up big on numerous occasions by intercepting the ball 5 times, which the Saints haven’t done since 1991.
The Saints entered Sunday’s game with their playoff seeding on the line. The Saints needed a win plus a Green Bay loss and a Seattle win to force a three-way tie at 12-4, which would have given the Saints a first round bye. With the Packers winning their game against the Bears and the Seahawks winning their game against the 49ers, this sets up the Saints as the number two seed in the playoffs. The Packers earn the bye at 13-3.
The Saints will play the Bears next week in the Superdome, but as of this writing, it is not known if they will play on Saturday or Sunday. This matters, as Kamara could be eligible to play on Sunday if he is activated from the COVID-19 reserve list.
The road to the Super Bowl goes through Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Presumably, the Saints will have WR Michael Thomas back next week, and possibly safety Marcus Williams and Kamara, as well. If Sunday’s “splash reports” about Brees’ impending retirement are true, then the health of the roster this week will be of the utmost importance.