Sloppy Saints Survive Scare to Beat Carolina

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In the NFL, teams often manage to “win ugly” at least once or twice, and possibly even several times in a single season. Yesterday afternoon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome against their division rivals the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints found a unique way to squeak out a narrow 34-31 victory with no time remaining in regulation; as kicker Wil Lutz drilled a game-winning 33-yard field goal just within the right upright of the goal post.

With the victory, New Orleans improved its win-loss record to (9-2) overall and now have essentially clinched their third consecutive NFC South Division Championship dating back to the 2017 NFL season. But it certainly didn’t come without several heart-stopping moments of trepidation for the team and its fan-base.

For the second time in the past three weeks, the Black and Gold clearly “played down” to their competition, and nearly were upset again in a similar fashion as they were two weeks ago, in a 26-9 home loss to their arch-rivals the Atlanta Falcons.

New Orleans overcame an entire litany of penalties, as they were flagged a whopping 11 times for 117 yards; most of them coming on the defensive side of the football.

The Saints secondary also blew several assignments in pass coverage, allowing Panthers second-year WR DJ Moore to have a huge day on the stat-sheet (six catches for 126 receiving yards and two TDs).

But Carolina didn’t exactly help their own cause, thanks mostly in part to the horrific day endured by Panthers kicker Joey Slye. The former Virginia Tech University specialist missed not one but TWO extra points after touchdowns, and then missed a critical 28-yard “chip shot – a field goal attempt with less than two minutes remaining in regulation.

Saints QB Drew Brees then deftly guided the Saints’ offense down the field to set Lutz up for the game-winner from 33 yards out for the breath-taking victory. It was the future Hall of Famer’s 50th fourth-quarter game-winning drive in his brilliant 19-year NFL career, to give New Orleans the victory.

After the game, however, a visibly-annoyed Saints head coach Sean Payton was clearly in no mood to comment on the officiating, which from his (and the team’s) perspective appeared to be a bit one-sided.

“It wasn’t our best game, it wasn’t their (Carolina’s) best game, and it quite honestly it wasn’t New York’s best game, and so it is what it is,” Payton said to reporters after the game in his post-game press conference with reporters. New York is where League officials are based.

“Look, I’m not going to go down a list of all of these (bad) officiating calls. Any more questions about the game? Or are we just looking for hits?”

With the win, the Saints now have what is seemingly now an insurmountable four-game lead over the 2nd place Panthers with five more regular-season games still left to be played. Carolina’s current win-loss record now stands at (5-6).

New Orleans will now only have three days to prepare for their next opponent, against the Atlanta Falcons, who they will face on Thanksgiving Night (Thursday) on the road at Atlanta.

The contest will be broadcast nationally by NBC, and will be shown locally in NOLA on WDSU Channel 6. Kickoff is set for 7:20 p.m. Central Standard time.

Barry Hirstius is a semi-retired journalist, who has worked as a sports editor and columnist. Barry is a New Orleans native who grew up as a fan of the Saints while attending games as a young boy at the old Tulane Stadium. He is the proud Grandfather of two beautiful young girls, Jasmine and Serenity. Follow him on Twitter: @BarryHirstius

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