Carolina Panthers report card: Running game worked, but secondary got scorched

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints - 1/7/18 NFL Pick, Odds, and Prediction

Panthers must contain dangerous Saints after the catch

- The Carolina Panthers' season came to an end Sunday after falling to rival Saints, 31-26, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. It was the second-longest scoring play of Ginn's career.

With its running game stalled, the Saints turned to Brees and he delivered. Brees was 13 of 18 for 230 yards with two touchdowns. "I think we've shown offensively that we have a lot of ways to be effective, a lot of weapons to spread the ball around". But, he delivered and found eight different receivers in the process. He finished 24-of-40 for 349 yards and two touchdowns, despite taking yet another vicious beating from Cam Jordan and the Saints 'D'.

Cam Newton would get two touchdown pass on the afternoon, a 14-yard hookup with Greg Olsen, and a 56-yard touchdown to Christian McCaffrey.

Newton sat on the field near the sideline after the play, and while a new National Football League rule calls for players to be taken to the locker room to be evaluated for concussions if they appear to be struggling to stand, Newton said part of his helmet got pushed into his eyelid and he only sat down to give backup Derek Anderson more time to warm up. Newton tried to jog to the sideline, but dropped to both knees about 10 yards away from the Carolina bench. The dynamic duo had been averaging 193 yards from scrimmage through 16 games but was limited to 68 yards Sunday, including a 2-yard touchdown run by Kamara with 5:08 remaining that ultimately proved the margin of victory.

Backup Derek Anderson came into the game to replace Newton, the Panthers down by the score of 24-19 midway through the fourth quarter. Brees threw a fourth-down interception on a gamble by the Saints.

New Orleans has lost numerous players to injuries.

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But an incompletion, an intentional-grounding penalty, another incompletion and a sack ended the Panthers' season. When asked last week about the possibility of rematch against the Saints, he said, "I'm not anxious about that". "It would be nice to have the explanation". In the 2016 season opener, a primetime rematch of Super Bowl 50 between the Broncos and Panthers, Newton was relentlessly battered, including absorbing multiple helmet-to-helmet hits. Team doctors and trainers checked on Newton and took him to the medical tent before clearing him to return.

It was a day that belonged to the Saints, who never trailed. Six others are injured: left guard Andrus Peat; right tackle Zach Strief; defensive end Alex Okafor; linebackers A.J. Klein and Alex Anzalone; and safety Kenny Vaccaro. But they gave a spirited, cohesive effort.

"Disappointment", Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. "Clearly we knew coming in that they were going to be a tough out". "We felt like we had a great game plan going".

The Saints are back in the playoffs after three straight 7-9 seasons.

The pick ultimately amounted to a short punt, and the famously aggressive Payton's arrogance is somewhat understandable because he spent the first three-and-half quarters watching Brees deconstruct Carolina. The atmosphere around town was predictably festive, and the crowd that was gathered inside the dome was ridiculously loud and enthusiastic.

On defense, Bell led the Saints with seven tackles, and had the game-ending sack. And obviously, you don't just look at the games you played them.

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