Saints finish disappointing season with disappointing loss to Panthers

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NEW ORLEANS – There is always something to play for.

The Carolina Panthers were playing their final game to try to win a game but a loss would improve their position in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Panthers were also playing for their Interim head coach, whom they obviously like and respect.

The New Orleans Saints were playing their final game to try to win a game but a win would improve the Philadelphia Eagles position in the first round of the 2023 Draft.

The circumstances were different but both teams entered the game already eliminated from the playoff chase.

This was all about who wanted to win more.

Both teams played hart. Both teams played poorly on offense.

Both teams played well on defense.

One team displayed a solid kicking game while the other failed in that area. Johnny Hekker had six punts for a 46.8 average, including four punts downed inside the 20-yard line and allowed no return yards. Eddy Pineiro did not allow a kick return and nailed the game-winning field goal.

That was the difference.

Here are my Quick Takes on Carolina’s 10-7 win over the Saints:

**Saints players were wearing shirts supporting Damar Hamlin in pre-game warmups.

**The Saints wore black jerseys with white pants for the first time in a long, long time. New Orleans last did to regularly under Bum Phillips before switching to gold pants in the Jim Mora era.

**Inactives for the Saints were Marcus Maye, Paulson Adebo, Justin Evans, Kirk Merritt, Ryan Ramczyk, Andrus Peat, J.P. Holtz, Payton Turner. That Turner was a healthy scratch speaks volumes about the lack of progress and production by the former first-round pick, concluding his second season with just 16 tackles, including two sacks while playing in just eight games. Turner has played in just 13 games in two seasons, missing 21 games.

**Only one player who started the season on the offensive line started this game with Erik McCoy manning the center spot. First-round pick Trevor Penning got his first start at left tackle with James Hurst moving to left guard. Josh Andrews started at right guard with Landon Young at right tackle.

**The Saints started crisply and sharply, driving 75 yards in eight plays, taking 3:59 off the clock with Andy Dalton hitting Chris Olave on a 25-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead with 11:01 to play in the opening quarter.

**On the drive, Dalton completed all four pass attempts for 59 yards and the score.

**Olave became the just the third rookie in franchise history to eclipse 1,000 yards receiving, joining Marques Colston and Michael Thomas in that elite company.

**The Saints got a good drive going at the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter, thanks to a 22-yard run by Alvin Kamara and a facemask penalty on Phil Hoskins on Taysom Hill but Dalton did not see a wide open Taysom Hill on a third-and-six play from the Carolina 26-yard line, throwing incomplete at the feet of Kamara, instead.

**Wil Lutz then hooked a 44-yard field goal attempt well left and the Saints blew a prime scoring opportunity.

**New Orleans had another excellent drive, starting at its own 15-yard line and reaching the Carolina 19. On fourth-and-one, Kamara tried to run inside and was stuffed for a 3-yard loss. Taysom Hill, who had three carries for 25 yards, was not in on the play and the Panthers outmanned the Saints at the point of attack.

**Carolina drove to the New Orleans 30-yard line late in the half but Darnold was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu, his third pick of the season, at the 2-yard line on a pass intended for D.J. Moore. Mathieu returned it to the New Orleans 43-yard line with 27 seconds left in the half. It was the 13th takeaway by the Saints on the season, still last in the NFL.

**Dalton hit Juwan Johnson on a 21-yard completion before hitting Olave for 14 yards but Olave fumbled when hit by C.J. Henderson and Xavier Woods recovered to kill yet another scoring opportunity for the Saints.

**It was the 25th turnover by the Saints this season as the frustration continued.

**The Saints amassed 234 yards in the first half and scored just seven points while Carolina had just 60 total yards, including minus four yards passing.

**It was the first time the Panthers were shut out in the first half this season.

**The minus four yards in the half passing for Carolina were the fewest in a Panthers game since 2010.

**Marcus Davenport and D’Onta Foreman were thrown out of the game on the first possession of the second half when Davenport slapped Foreman in the helmet and Hubbard punched Davenport in the facemask. Davenport ended his fifth season in the league with a half sack, just two tackles for loss and only 29 tackles in 15 games.

**Carolina shoved it down the throats of the New Orleans front, pushing the Saints back continuously on an 82-yard drive in 14 plays and scored on a fumble recovery. Darnold kept it on a read option play, was hit by Mathieu at the 1-yard line, fumbled but guard Michael Jordan recovered in the end zone for the Panthers for the score. The drive covered 8:15, more than half the quarter.

**New Orleans then had a possession killed by Adam Trautman, who committed a holding penalty and then was beaten for a sack, forcing a punt.

**Tre’Quan Smith left the game injured late in the fourth quarter.

**Olave had a key drop, to go along with his key fumble to offset his big touchdown catch. Still, it was a superb rookie season for Olave.

**Daniel Sorensen came up with the biggest play of the game, picking off Darnold on a deep shot to Moore. Sorensen played free safety perfectly, coming off the hash to react perfectly, in timely fashion, and returned it 14 yards to the Carolina 35-yard line.

**Penning went down injured with 1:33 to play in the game. Hurst had to move to left tackle with Lewis Kidd taking over at guard.

**Getting the prime opportunity, the Saints lost two yards in three plays and Josh Norman dropped a potential interception on third down.

**Lutz then missed a 55-yard field goal attempt badly, giving Carolina the ball at the New Orleans 45-yard line.

**Darnold finally connected on an important pass attempt, hitting former Parkway and LSU wide receiver Terrace Marshall on a 21-yard completion to the Saints’ 24-yard line.

**Eddy Pineiro calmly nailed the game-winning 42-yard field goal on the final play of the game.

It is the first time the Panthers have swept the Saints in seven seasons. The Panthers are not a good team. That should not happen but the Saints are not a good team, either.

Carolina played hard for Interim head coach Steve Wilks, who has done a solid job since taking over from Matt Rhule, leading his team to a 6-6 record. He is deserving of strong consideration to retain the job on a permanent basis.

The Saints earned their 7-10 record.

You can point to the injuries.

You can talk about the quarterback position. Dalton is not the future, though he would be a nice reserve option. It appears obvious that Jameis Winston is not in the future plans and is not that guy.

You can talk about close losses.

In the final analysis, the Saints could not score points, made too many mistakes and could not create turnovers, though they did in this game.

Dennis Allen is a defensive coach. His defense played like it, as it always has.

The offense was not very good in 2021 but it was worse this season. Regardless of who coaches the team or the offense, that needs to be fixed. The Saints somehow gained just 70 yards in the second half after the 234 yards in the first half.

By the way, you have to make field goals in the NFL, especially indoors.

The Saints lost to a team that passed for 43 yards, which is hard to fathom.

We will discuss the roster and potential additions and subtractions in the days and weeks to come.

The fact that the Saints had a chance to close on a four-game win streak, at home, as a favorite, against a team that could not throw the football is revealing.

Allen is likely to return next season. If he does, you can rest assured that there will be personnel changes and there will be staff changes.

The 7-10 finish is the worst franchise since before Sean Payton arrived in 2005.

When you are a 7-10 team, change is required, needed, essential.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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