Saints’ playoff hopes still alive after beating Carolina

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Matthew Tate

Cameron Jordan led the way in the Saints’ win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, recording eight tackles, three tackles for loss and three-and-a-half sacks.

Jude Papillion, Sports Editor

The New Orleans Saints defeated the Carolina Panthers 18-10 at Caesars Superdome on Sunday in their week 17 matchup. The Saints’ victory comes after the Black and Gold fell to the Miami Dolphins 20-3 on Monday Night Football last week in a game that many questioned whether or not should have been pushed due the Saints having 22 players out with COVID-19. Regardless, with the win against Carolina, the Saints are not out of the question to make the playoffs yet and will continue rallying against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in the final week of the regular season. 

Quarterback Taysom Hill made his return to the field for the first time since the Saints’ late December win over Tampa Bay and completed 17 of his 28 passes for 222 yards and a touchdown. Hill threw no interceptions and ran 12 times for 45 yards. 

“Yeah, it was kind of up and down at times, but he led us on key drives,” Saints head coach Sean Payton said about Hill after the game. “I was happy with the win, and you know, ball security was important. He did a good job with that.” 

Alvin Kamara scored the Saints’ first touchdown in over 11 quarters on a 12-yard pass from Hill midway through the fourth quarter. Kicker Brett Maher missed the extra-point but scored the Saints other 12 points after converting four field goals. Kamara finished with 32 yards on 13 carries and had five receptions for 68 yards. Marquez Callaway led the Saints in receiving with six receptions for 97 yards. 

As has been the case in many games this season, the Saints’ defense is what allowed them to come away with the win. Cameron Jordan led the way with eight tackles, three tackles for loss and three-and-a-half sacks. Former LSU Tiger Kwon Alexander also had eight tackles and half a sack. As a unit, the Saints defense was able to get to the quarterback seven times and allowed the fewest yards of any game this season

Defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson intercepted Sam Darnold in the final minute of the game in similar fashion to his previous two interceptions against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Panthers quarterback Darnold started for the first time since week nine after returning from a shoulder injury, replacing Cam Newton. Darnold completed 17 of his 26 attempts for 132 yards, zero touchdowns and a pick. 

Carolina was led in rushing by Chuba Hubbard, who rushed 17 times for 55 yards. Hubbard also scored the Panthers’ only touchdown on a 21-yard run early in the second quarter. Kicker Lirim Hajrullahu scored the Panthers’ only other points of the afternoon, converting a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter.

The Black and Gold now have sole possession of second place in the NFC South after winning the division the past four straight years. In order to make the playoffs, the Saints must beat their division foe, the Atlanta Falcons, in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and the Los Angeles Rams must take care of business in California against the San Francisco 49ers. Both games kickoff on Sunday at 3:25 p.m., and the Saints can be seen locally on FOX or heard on WWL 105.3-FM/870- AM. The 7-9 Falcons fell to the Buffalo Bills 29-15 in Buffalo last Sunday and have been eliminated from playoff contention.