Sean Payton trying to 'win the game' on fourth-and-2 call

12 January, 2018, 19:57 | Author: Cecil Buchanan
  • TODAY Sports

They will play at Minnesota against the second-seeded Vikings next weekend in a conference semifinal. Carolina finished the season 11-6.

The 2017 campaign for the Saints has been fueled by a breakout season for the defense and the emergence of a record-setting duo in the backfield.

It got interesting for the Saints late, but simply put, they aren't in position to win that game without Brees, who turns 39 this week. A first down would have essentially iced the game, and the Saints came out initially in an unsuccessful attempt to draw Carolina offside before calling a timeout. When asked last week about the possibility of rematch against the Saints, he said, "I'm not anxious about that".

Drew Brees and the Saints are celebrating. Surely there isn't going to be a week's worth of "Bountygate" stories leading up to this matchup.

But Gano's long field goal on the last play of the first half got the Panthers within 21-9 at the break.

Still, Newton completed three straight passes to move the Panthers to the Saints 26-yard line with 58 seconds left before New Orleans' resistance stiffened. "I said, 'You have a play you like?' He said, 'Yeah'". Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram averaged only 1.9 yards per carry.

-Football's a amusing game, example No. 13,424: Graham Gano missed a 25-yard field goal, his first miss under 30 yards in 53 attempts.

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Another Gano field goal, this one from 29 yards, cut the Saints lead to 21-12 early in the third quarter. It's done. We both got to the goal we've been trying to get to, and that's the playoffs. "We nearly let them back in the game, but here I am standing as victor".

Luckily, it turned into a scary footnote in the story, thanks to big plays by Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (a pass breakup in the end zone) and Jordan, the recently named first-team All-Pro, who plowed into two blockers in the final minute and drove them back into Newton.

Olsen had eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown. The sack by Onyemata came as Newton tried to spin away from Tyeler Davison and slammed his head into Onyemata's chest.

"No, he actually got poked in the eye", Rivera said when asked after the game if Newton went through concussion protocol. The Panthers said later he had been poked in the eye.

Carolina battled back. Newton fired a bullet to a wide open Christian McCaffrey and the rookie would complete a 56-yard touchdown as he made his way into the end zone. With the Saints back in the playoffs for the first time since 2013, it will be interesting to see how Sean Payton's team handles the gauntlet that leads to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

Saints: Starting left guard Andrus Peat was carted off the field with a broken left fibula.

His 230 passing yards and a pair of scoring tosses in the first half, and quick thinking late, helped the Saints avoid disaster in the waning moments.

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