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MIN at ATLNE at BUFNYG at OAKPHI at SEAPIT at CINSF at CHITB at GBWAS at DAL

Week 13 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 21, New Orleans Saints 31


What you need to know

Carolina Panthers

Carolina had a golden opportunity to seize control of the NFC South against New Orleans. However, Carolina struggled to stop New Orleans and trailed by multiple touchdowns by the middle of the second quarter. The run game of Carolina never got on track as Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey combined for 17-61 on the ground and Devin Funchess was shut down until well into the second half. Without Greg Olsen, Carolina’s passing game was notably stunted as no ancillary option for the Panthers stepped up beyond Funchess. While on track for a playoff spot, Carolina faces Minnesota next week, another tough test for an out-of-sync Panthers offense.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints got back to their winning ways in week 13 and followed the recipe they have been cooking all season. The running game got back on track in a big way accounting for 148 yards and 3 touchdowns. Mark Ingram had a 72-yard run and a touchdown while Alvin Kamara stole the show with 126 total yards and 2 touchdowns. Drew Brees finally connected with Michael Thomas in the end zone and the Saints have sole possession of the NFC South once again. One interesting storyline was Saints quarterback of the future, Taysom Hill, was used extensively on special teams and made several tackles. Sean Peyton was all smiles seeing his prized acquisition making plays on special teams despite being dubbed as the potential successor to Drew Brees. The Saints have a Thursday Night tilt against division rival Atlanta this week and could create more separation in the division as Carolina takes on a surging Minnesota team.

Carolina Panthers

QB Cam Newton, 57 offensive snaps, Pass: 17 - 27 - 183 - 2 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 6 - 51 - 0
It was a mixed bag for Cam Newton in the critical division road game against New Orleans. The game script was negative early as Carolina trailed by 14 points by the middle of the second quarter. Newton had his moments of accurate passes, but critical plays were left on the field either by Newton’s inaccuracy or dropped passes. Newton threw a bullet to Kaelin Clay on a third down slant early in the game and a deep out to Brenton Bersin, a throw not many quarterbacks can complete with such ease. However, Newton notably underthrew Damiere Byrd on a deep route, a likely touchdown, which was tipped away by the defensive back catching up to the play. A well-thrown seam pass by Newton to Russell Shepard was also dropped. As a runner, Newton had a 10-yard rush called back by penalty, a long rush of 30 yards, and shed a rusher to find Ed Dickson as an outlet receiver. For the fourth time over the last five games, Newton did not surpass 200 passing yards. On the plus side, Newton avoided turning the ball over for the fourth straight game. Minnesota offers arguably the toughest passing test for Carolina of the season next week.

RB Christian McCaffrey, 40 offensive snaps, Rush: 6 - 16 - 0, Rec: 5 - 33 - 1 (6 targets)
Yet again McCaffrey saw a strong share of snaps as Carolina fell behind early in New Orleans. McCaffrey struggled as a runner, a common occurrence this season, as he did not elude initial defenders on the interior or to the edge. McCaffrey has less than 25 rushing yards in 9-of-12 games this season and more than eight carries in only two contests. As a receiver, McCaffrey was active with six targets, but most of his production through the air came on a single catch. McCaffrey came wide open in the flat en route to an easy 21-yard touchdown. On his other five catches, McCaffrey logged only 12 yards. McCaffrey did show his explosiveness hurdling a defender late in the game after being stuffed on a shovel pass, screen, and well in front of the sticks on third-and-long among his other catches. Including this week, McCaffrey has shown less dynamic movement thus far in his rookie season to make the first defender miss, excel in the open field, or succeed in traditional running back concepts. The Vikings defense offers a tough test next week.

RB Jonathan Stewart, 22 offensive snaps, Rush: 11 - 45 - 1 (1 targets)
In a game against New Orleans where Carolina was playing catch up, Stewart’s role was muted. Stewart was out-snapped handily by Christian McCaffrey. The biggest chunk of Stewart’s production came on the opening play for Carolina’s offense, finding a wide open lane to the perimeter for more than 10 yards. Stewart also converted a goal line carry by going over the top on his end zone plunge, his third touchdown in the last five games. The biggest limitation of Stewart’s role is his complete lack of passing game involvement with Christian McCaffrey cemented as the receiving back. Stewart has not caught a pass since Week 5, relying on strong volume or a touchdown to log a solid performance.

WR Devin Funchess, 47 offensive snaps, Rec: 4 - 60 - 1 (7 targets)
Funchess was well on his way to a dud performance without a catch until late in the third quarter. Before getting into the box score, Funchess had a contested deep sideline drop and Cam Newton missed Funchess with a high throw. Funchess came on late in the game, however, including a strong 20-yard in-cut reception, a long defensive pass interference penalty, and a contested high-point play after which Funchess walked into the end zone to keep Carolina’s comeback hopes alive. Funchess also dropped a red zone slant amidst his up-and-down performance. Despite the non-existent impact for more than half the game, Funchess led the team in targets and hit 60 or more yards for the fourth straight game.

WR Russell Shepard, 32 offensive snaps, Rec: 3 - 29 - 0 (5 targets)
Shepard was the de factor No.2 option to Devin Funchess with Greg Olsen out of the lineup against New Orleans. Shepard logged more than half of his yardage on his opening catch in the first quarter, coming wide open across the formation for more than 15 yards. The rest of Shepard’s day was marred by mistakes from two drops (one down the seam and another on third down) to fumbling a short reception in the fourth quarter, which Carolina fortunately recovered. Shepard has noteworthy athletic traits, but has struggled to find consistency in his NFL career. The rest of the season offers a golden opportunity in terms of role for Shepard, but this week was a microcosm of why Shepard has yet to stick in a prominent role to-date.

TE Ed Dickson, 56 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 18 - 0 (2 targets)
With Greg Olsen out against New Orleans, Dickson assumed the lead tight end role. However, Dickson saw only two targets, both with minimal impact. Outside of Dickson’s Week 5 career day of 175 yards, he has struggled to separate from defenders or find yards after the catch opportunities. Greg Olsen practiced at the end of last week, pointing to a good chance to return in Week 14 against Minnesota.


New Orleans Saints

QB Drew Brees, 64 offensive snaps, Pass: 25 - 34 - 269 - 1 TD / 0 INT, Rush: 4 - -3 - 0
Both the Saints and Brees got back on track this week as the veteran quarterback looked like himself again. He was quick to get the ball out and spread it around to 9 different receivers. He was not overly flashy and did not push the ball down the field very much, but with the success of the ground game, he did not need to. He connected with Michael Thomas for the pairs first touchdown since week 4 against Miami and looked very comfortable overall. The touchdown pass came from 10 yards out with Thomas streaking across the field and losing his coverage in the wash of bodies behind him. Brees was able to throw the ball towards the sideline where only Thomas could make a play on the ball. Brees connected with almost every potential receiver on the roster, but the only significant amount of targets and yards came to Thomas, Ingram, and Kamara. Willie Snead also finally made an appearance with a 26-yard catch but did not account for anything else the rest of the game. If the running game continues to fire on all cylinders, then Brees will just need to continue to not turn the ball over and the Saints will win a lot of games. With another divisional game against Atlanta on a short week, Brees will face another stiff test.

RB Mark Ingram, 36 offensive snaps, Rush: 14 - 85 - 1, Rec: 6 - 37 - 0 (7 targets)
Ingram has been the starter all season long but was not given the first carry of the game this week. It was very short lived being on the bench as he received the games second carry 3 plays later. Ingram struggled to get things going on the ground this week aside from his 72-yard burst off the right guard. If you take away that one play, he managed 13 yards on 13 carries. He was able to cap that drive off with a 3-yard touchdown plunge after Kamara took the ball 9 yards to the Carolina 3. Another interesting stat this week was Ingram had one more reception and target than Kamara. This is the first time this season that Ingram had more receptions than Kamara and something that most people did not expect to see. Kamara did more damage with his receptions, but Ingram was still used in passing situations at a higher rate than before. On the surface, this looks like another great game for Ingram, but quite a few flags go up when you look at production outside of his one big play. He is not at risk of losing the starting job to Kamara, but we could see the carry distribution continue to inch closer to 50/50 as the season goes on.

RB Alvin Kamara, 37 offensive snaps, Rush: 9 - 60 - 2, Rec: 5 - 66 - 0 (6 targets)
Kamara was rewarded for his big week last week and given the first carry of the game today. This was most likely more of a game script thing and has nothing to do with who the starter is and so on. Kamara got the first carry but Ingram came in and took the second, but it is worth noting with the success Kamara has been having. Kamara also outgained Ingram in total yards and found the end zone twice today. It was Ingram who broke the big play, but Kamara was consistent and more effective overall this week. The first touchdown came on 4th and 2 from the Carolina 2 after Ingram had failed to get in and a Drew Brees pass was stopped for no gain. Kamara was able to scamper off the right end and into the end zone for an easy score. The second touchdown was the highlight reel run after he broke for 20 yards off the right end and into the end zone for the Saints final touchdown of the day. Kamara also caught 5 of his 6 targets and had 9 carries. This puts the touch distribution at 15 for Kamara and 21 for Ingram. If Kamara continues to produce, this number will start getting closer as the season winds down.

WR Michael Thomas, 48 offensive snaps, Rec: 5 - 70 - 1 (9 targets)
Week 4 seems like last season at this point, but that was the last time that Thomas caught a touchdown pass. He has sprinkled in some 100-yard games and looked like his usual self, but this is the first time he has gotten into the end zone since October. The play came from the 10-yard line on 3rd and 8, Thomas ran a drag across the field and lost his coverage in the wash of defenders behind him, and Brees was able to put the ball on the sideline side where only Thomas could make a play on the ball. This looked like a play that could have been ran on any other goal to go situation this season but took almost 9 weeks to be run effectively. Thomas has done some big things since coming into the league last season and he is still Drew Brees’ favorite target. Thomas was targeted 9 times this week and was able to catch 5 of those 9. The longest play of the day came on a 32-yard reception where he simply outran his base coverage and was barely tackled by a late-arriving safety down the left sideline. Thomas will have another chance to find the end zone quickly after a short week and taking on the Falcons for Thursday Night Football.

WR Willie Snead, 23 offensive snaps, Rec: 2 - 31 - 0 (2 targets)
Only having 2 catches may seem like an inconsequential stat line, but this is the most effective Snead has been this season. 26 of his 31 yards came on a single play, but it was good to see some chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees again. There are so many weapons in the Saints offense that it is easy to overlook Snead. As he continues to get healthy and works his way back into the system he could take targets away from Ted Ginn and Brandon Coleman.