|Other Week 17 Game Recaps|
|CAR at NO||CHI at HOU||CLE at PIT||DAL at PHI||DEN at SD||DET at GB||JAX at BAL||KC at CIN|
|MIA at NYJ||NE at BUF||NYG at MIN||OAK at TB||SEA at ARI||STL at ATL||TEN at IND||WAS at SF|
Week 17 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 33, New Orleans Saints 31
What you need to know
The Panthers came into their final regular season game with a spot in the playoffs already locked up, but they are still playing for a division title and a bye during the first round. If they were to manage a victory against the Saints they would wrap up their first NFC South title since 2003.
They managed to pull out a victory on a field goal with one second left after blowing a 20 point fourth quarter lead. The lead was lost due to mistakes on special teams, including a missed 41 yard field goal and a 20 yard punt that lead to the go ahead Saint score.
The Panthers offense was fueled by a strong ground game featuring DeAngelo Williams as the primary back. Williams hit the 100 yard mark in the second quarter and in the process, broke two franchise records, most 100 yard games rushing and the single season mark for rushing yards.
Jake Delhomme was not asked to pass much as the Panthers were content with keeping the ball on the ground and out of the hands of the Saint offense. When he was asked to pass his offensive line was able to give him plenty of time to throw.
Somehow Steve Smith is able to have good receiving games no matter how well covered he is. The Saints would routinely double cover him, and somehow he was able to come down with the reception and give the offense key first downs.
|New Orleans Saints|
The Saints are out of the playoff picture, but still had two things that they could accomplish during their game with the Panthers. A win would prevent Carolina from clinching the division title, and they are potentially gunning for one of their players to break an NFL record. With 402 yards passing Drew Brees would break Dan Mario's record for most passing yards in a season, which was set in 1984. Brees fell just 16 yards short of the mark, but did manage to tie the NFL record for most 300 yard passing games in a season along the way to becoming only the second player to throw for over 5,000 yards.
Brees was able to have a good shot at breaking the record due to mistakes early on. Two turnovers in the second quarter led to 14 points and a 13 point halftime lead. They were able to get back in the game on the strength of Brees' passing and overcame a 20 point deficit to take a short lived one point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Fan favorite Deuce McAllister was possibly playing in his final game as a member of the Saints and he did nothing to disappoint the hometown crowd. Coming into the game midway through the second quarter, he seemed to ignite the offense with his hard nosed rushing style and refusal to go down on contact.
What you ought to know
|QB Jake Delhomme, Pass: 14 - 20 - 250 - 1 TD / 0 INT|
Delhomme only attempted 20 passes due to the offense game plan. The coaches relied on the rushing attack to keep the ball out of the hands of the Saint offense, and only passed the ball in either obvious passing situations or to keep the defense honest. When he did drop back to pass he usually had plenty of time in the pocket to find an open receiver deep downfield. The pass rush was only able to get to him on the final two drives of the game, sacking him once and almost getting to him on another play. On the final drive he was hit just as he released the ball and got up limping while running downfield. There did not appear to be a serious injury as he was able to stay in the game and throw another pass before the game winning field goal.
|RB DeAngelo Williams, Rush: 25 - 178 - 0|
The main running back in the Panthers offense is DeAngelo Williams. Williams gained over 100 yards in the first half in leading the team to a 13 point half time lead. The offensive line was able to open holes for him on most plays, and he took advantage by finding the holes and sprinting out to over seven yards per carry. The coaching staff made it a point to not overuse him before the playoffs.
|RB Jonathan Stewart, Rush: 17 - 56 - 1|
Jonathan Stewart provided the change of pace in the rushing game as he periodically spelled DeAngelo Williams. He was asked to get the tough yards between the tackles, but was not always in the game during short yardage situations. Stewart saw the bulk of his action when the game appeared to be well in hand and the coaches wanted to give Williams an extended rest. His touchdown run in the third quarter made the Panthers only the fourth team in NFL history to have two running backs score at least 10 rushing touchdowns in one season.
|WR Muhsin Muhammad, Rec: 7 - 79 - 1 (9 targets)|
The possession receiver in the offense is Muhsin Muhammad. Muhammad has nose for finding the open areas of the defense and is able to exploit them and give his quarterback a reliable target to throw to. His touchdown reception was a good example of his abilities as he was able to find an open spot in the front of the end zone and came up with the reception for an early 16 -- 3 lead.
|WR Steve Smith, Rec: 5 - 134 - 0 (9 targets)|
Steve Smith is the favorite target of Delhomme for good reason. Somehow he is able to get just open enough to catch the ball no matter how well covered he is. On three plays Delhomme was able to get the ball to him on deep passes, despite his being double covered by Saint defenders. His biggest play was on his final reception, a 39 yard completion that gave the Panthers excellent field position after the Saints had just taken the lead. Smith had managed to get open despite being double covered while his quarterback was facing pressure and his catch seemed to take the wind out of the Saint comeback.
|WR D.J. Hackett, Rec: 2 - 37 - 0 (2 targets)|
D.J. Hackett provided the offense with a good third option in the passing attack. Delhomme was able to hit him in stride on a quick slant route for a 30 yard gain on his second catch.
|TE Dante Rosario (1 targets)|
Rosario was unable to come up with his only target as the ball was knocked out by the defender as soon as he got his hands on the ball.
|PK John Kasay 4 - 5 FG, 3 - 3 XP, 15 points|
Kasay was four of five on field goals, with his only miss being from 41 yards out. The miss was his first in 30 attempts from inside 50 yards.
|CAR Rush Defense|
The rushing defense was able to keep the Saint backs under wraps, only allowing a total of 50 yards on the ground for the entire game. The Saints only ran the ball for 11 plays as they were trailing for most of the game and had to rely on the passing attack to get back in the game during the final three quarters.
|CAR Pass Defense|
The pass defense was facing one of the best passing offenses in the NFL and held up well. Despite giving up 386 yards through the air, they were able to get some pressure on Brees, sacking him twice and forcing him to dump the ball off quickly on numerous other occasions.
|QB Drew Brees, Pass: 30 - 49 - 386 - 4 TD / 1 INT|
Brees needed a total of 402 passing yards to break Dan Marino's single season passing mark and came within one pass completion of breaking the mark. With the Saints falling behind early they needed to go to the pass in order to get back in the game. They almost succeeded when they took a one point lead with just over three minutes left in the game. Needing only 16 yards after the final score the Saints got the ball back with one second left on the clock. Brees had an open receiver to his left and instead threw the ball deep downfield to his right, with the ball being off target. Despite coming up short of the record, he had an excellent game passing for 386 yards and four touchdowns. He did face pressure from a good pass rush that forced him to dump the ball off early to his backs and tight ends, and sometimes before his receiver was ready for the ball. The Panther defensive backs did not make it any easier as they did a good job of double covering the main receivers and would hit the receivers after the catch was made. The coverage was responsible for the first interception and almost came up with a second pick, but the pass was ruled to be incomplete upon review.
|RB Deuce McAllister, Rush: 8 - 40 - 0, Rec: 5 - 41 - 0 (8 targets)|
Despite not starting McAllister was the force that began to turn the Saint offense around. His hard nosed running style seemed to energize both the home crowd and the offense. His involvement in the passing game was on screen passes and as the emergency dump off target. Two of his targets were passes thrown at his feet by Brees to avoid a sack.
|RB Mike Bell, Rush: 3 - 10 - 0 (1 targets)|
Bell started but gave way to Deuce McAllister in the second quarter. He was ineffective running the ball, with his best carry coming on a third and two play where he cutback into the middle of the field on a designed sweep and gained a first down.
|RB Mike Karney, Rec: 1 - 7 - 0 (1 targets)|
Karney caught his only target on a screen play that he took for a seven yard gain.
|WR Lance Moore, Rec: 8 - 91 - 2 (11 targets)|
Moore closed out an excellent season as the leading receiver for the Saints by catching eight passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. With the defense concentrating on stopping Colston, Moore was able to find open areas in the zone defense on crossing routes and in seems down the deep middle of the field. He catches the ball well in traffic and, when catching the pass, is able to put some good moves on the defenders to gain extra yards.
|WR Marques Colston, Rec: 7 - 123 - 1 (15 targets)|
Colston was the number one target for Brees, and the focus of the Panther defensive backs. The defense did a good job of keeping him double covered, but he did find ways to get open against the coverage by splitting the defenders in the middle of the field or catching well placed balls along the sidelines. He was the target on the Brees interception in the second quarter and almost was the cause of a second turnover later in the quarter when the defensive back knocked the ball out shortly after Colston got his hands on the ball. The ball popped out and was recovered by the Panthers, but the game officials ruled the pass to be incomplete and negated the turnover. Three plays later he caught the first touchdown from Brees and brought the Saints to within 13 points just before halftime.
|WR Robert Meachem, Rec: 3 - 36 - 1 (5 targets)|
The Saints featured Meachem as the third option in the passing attack to try and gage the second year player's prospects for next season. He showed some value, catching three balls for 36 yards and a touchdown. But he was bothered by close coverage on passes thrown to the middle of the field and was seen asking an official for a pass interference call on a play where the defender made an excellent play on the ball.
|WR Devery Henderson, Rec: 2 - 29 - 0 (2 targets)|
Henderson was able to haul in both of his targets, both resulting in key first downs.
|TE Billy Miller, Rec: 3 - 56 - 0 (7 targets)|
Billy Miller got the start due to the injury to Jeremy Shockey and did well in the passing game. Miller was almost used like a slot receiver on most passing plays, as he primarily lined up in the receiver position and not in a traditional tight end spot. He was asked to help out in pass blocking during the second half, as the defense was having success with their pass rushers getting pressure on the quarterback.
|TE Buck Ortega, Rec: 1 - 3 - 0 (2 targets)|
Ortega was targeted twice in the first quarter, but was used after that primarily as a blocking tight end in the offense.
|PK Garrett Hartley 1 - 1 FG, 4 - 4 XP, 7 points|
Hartley was perfect on his only field goal attempt during the game, from 21 yards out.
|NO Rush Defense|
The rushing defense did not do a good job in stopping the two pronged Panther rushing game. DeAngelo Williams was able to gain over 100 yards during the first half and the defense was unable to stop the backs from gaining first downs during the second half when they needed a stop to get the ball back in the hands of the offense. The defense did a poor job of wrapping up the backs and both players were able to break tackles and gain extra yards.
|NO Pass Defense|
The passing defense was unable to get pressure on Jake Delhomme, giving him plenty of time to throw. Of the Panthers 14 pass completions, ten of them went for a first down as they only passed the ball when necessary. The lack of pressure on the quarterback allowed the receivers time to get open despite being double covered.