NFL News & Analysis

NFL Week 17 Game Recap: New Orleans Saints 18, Carolina Panthers 10

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints outside linebacker Demario Davis (56), right, congratulates defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) after a sack of Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold (14) in the second quarter at the Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints kept their playoff hopes alive with a narrow 18-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers in Week 17. The Panthers had a chance to tie the game, but Chauncey Gardner-Johnson intercepted Sam Darnold with under one minute remaining to seal the win.

While New Orleans trailed by one at halftime, the offense strung together a pair of second-half scoring drives, including its first touchdown in three weeks. Meanwhile, the defense allowed just 47 yards after halftime.

Neither offense looked overly impressive, however. Both teams averaged less than five yards per play and each went for under 300 total yards in the game.

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New Orleans Saints

Quarterback

Taysom Hill put together arguably his best performance of the season as a passer. He earned a pending 75.5 passing grade after going 17-of-28 for 222 yards and one touchdown. He did make a turnover-worthy play for the fourth consecutive game, but the Saints quarterback threw with confidence, even on downfield attempts. Hill completed five of his seven intermediate or deep throws for 105 yards.

Hill continued to be an effective runner, gaining 45 yards and two first downs on 12 attempts.

Taysom Hill by target depth

Attempts Yards YPA Passer Rating
9 yards or less 16 117 7.3 115.9
10+ yards 7 105 15.0 113.7
Running Back

It was tough sledding for Alvin Kamara on the ground. He broke one explosive carry that gained 30 yards, but outside of that, he gained a measly two yards on 12 attempts. The offensive line didn’t provide much help for the star running back, who was stuffed on 23% of his attempts and averaged negative yards before contact per carry.

Kamara did find success in the passing game, as he caught five passes for 68 yards, three first downs and one touchdown.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

Almost all the yardage from Saints receivers and tight ends went to Marquez Callaway, who was targeted on 34.5% of Hill’s dropbacks. He finished the game with a team-high in targets (10), receptions (six), yards (97) and first-down receptions (four). However, Callaway dropped three passes, which brought his receiving grade down to 70.5 on first review. He still generated an impressive 3.34 yards per route run.

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Offensive Line

The Saints were without some of their usual starters up front, but the offensive line still gave up just 10 pressures on 34 pass-blocking snaps. Will Clapp was responsible for four of them, and he conceded one sack of the game. None of the offensive linemen graded well on run-blocking plays, and all five starters received 58.0 or worse offensive grades after first review.

Defensive Line

The Saints pass rush created plenty of pressure on Darnold and was effective at disrupting the pocket. Cameron Jordan and David Onyemata dominated down the stretch, combining for 11 of the unit’s 20 pressures. Jordan converted four of his pressures into sacks, while Onyemata won 23.3% of his pass-rush reps.

Player Pass-Rush Snaps Sacks Pressures Win Rate
David Onyemata 29 0 6 23.3%
Cameron Jordan 28 3.5 5 13.3%
Marcus Davenport 26 0 4 18.5%
Shy Tuttle 10 0 1 30.0%
Carl Granderson 9 0 3 10.0%
Linebackers

Kwon Alexander had varying success against the run and in coverage. In run defense, he generated three defensive stops and one tackle for loss or no gain. However, Alexander received one of the lowest coverage grades among Saints defenders after allowing six receptions for 71 yards and four first downs. Three of those catches resulted in a 15-plus yard gain.

Secondary

The Saints' secondary wasn’t targeted downfield often, giving up only 38 yards on nine receptions. Paulson Adebo conceded 26 yards in coverage but made up for it by forcing an incompletion on one of his seven targets. 

In addition to the interception, Gardner-Johnson pressured Darnold on three of his four pass-rush snaps and converted one of them into a sack. P.J. Williams also came unblocked on a blitz early in the game and strip-sacked Darnold to later set up a short field goal attempt.

Player Cov. Snaps Targets Yards Passer Rating Allowed
Paulson Adebo 34 7 26 65.2
Marshon Lattimore 34 3 9 70.1
Malcolm Jenkins 33 2 4 79.2
Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 28 2 -1 16.7

Carolina Panthers

Quarterback

Darnold conducted a very conservative passing attack to limit mistakes through the air. He finished with 132 passing yards and an interception on 34 dropbacks. Darnold attempted just five passes beyond 10 yards, and his average depth of target was four yards downfield. Still, he closed the game averaging 5.1 yards per attempt, with 69% of his yards coming after the catch.

Running Back

Chuba Hubbard found plenty of running room early, but the Panthers went away from the ground game in the second half. He averaged nearly four yards per attempt in the opening two quarters but tallied just 12 yards on six carries in the second half. He still managed to find the end zone for the first time in three weeks.

While Hubbard worked mostly on the ground, Ameer Abdullah did most of his damage through the air, catching all four of his targets for 31 receiving yards. He broke three tackles after the catch, and two of his receptions resulted in a first down.

Wide Receiver/Tight End

The Panthers' passing attack has severely struggled to get the ball to its playmakers. D.J. Moore was targeted eight times, but only four were catchable. He finished with three receptions for 29 yards and two first downs. Ian Thomas led all Carolina receivers with 33 receiving yards on three targets. He generated a lowly 1.32 yards per route run but was the only Panther to eclipse a 1.00 mark.

Offensive Line

Carolina’s pass protection fell apart in the second half. After giving up just five pressures in the first half, the offensive line conceded 13 after halftime and eight alone in the fourth quarter. Rookie Brady Christensen struggled to contain the Saints' edge defenders, allowing a team-high six pressures on 34 pass-blocking snaps.

Taylor Moton gave up just one pressure and was the only Panther lineman to receive a 70.0-plus overall grade on first review.

Player Pass-Blocking Snaps Sacks Pressures
Brady Christensen 34 0 6
Michael Jordan 34 0 4
Pat Elfein 34 0 3
Taylor Moton 34 0 1
John Miller 34 1 4
Defensive Line

Six defensive linemen generated a pressure, but nobody totaled more than three in the loss. Derrick Brown converted his only pressure into a sack, while DaQuan Jones turned one of his two pressures into a quarterback hit. Jones finished as the highest-graded defensive lineman for the Panthers on first review.

Yetur Gross-Matos made some plays against the run, notching a pair of defensive stops and tackles for loss or no gain.

Linebackers

Most of Frankie Luvu’s snaps came in run defense, where he dominated. He finished with five tackles for loss or no gain, six defensive stops and an average depth of tackle being behind the line of scrimmage. He graded positively against the run on nearly half of his run-defense snaps to earn an elite defensive grade on first review.

Jermaine Carter played the most defensive snaps among linebackers (55) and allowed 56 yards and three first downs on four targets in coverage.

Secondary

Despite missing its three starting cornerbacks, the Panthers' secondary limited the big plays to just two and combined to give up 123 yards on 10 receptions. Keith Taylor mostly lined up against Callaway and was responsible for conceding four receptions, 57 yards and three first downs. Myles Hartsfield conceded 34 yards, but nobody else allowed more than 20 yards in coverage.

Player Cov. Snaps Targets Yards Passer Rating Allowed
Keith Taylor 34 7 57 83.6
Rashaan Melvin 34 1 9 104.2
Jeremy Chinn 31 1 4 83.3
Myles Hartsfield 29 3 34 104.9
Kenny Robinson 23 2 19 145.8
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