NFC Playoff Catch-up: Wildcard Weekend

Carolina Panthers 26
New Orleans Saints 31

Sunday, January 7 th , 4:40 EST.

There’s an outdated adage in NFL reporting, probably dating back to gambler’s logic in the latter half of the twentieth century, that it’s almost impossible to beat the same team three times in the same season. The root of the thought process, of course, is that divisional games are tough, and divisional road games doubly so. But when playoff time comes, almost invariably, the team with the two prior wins is going to be the home team, so the deck is stacked against the two- time loser. New Orleans had won both regular season tilts with Carolina, but sputtered in week 17, losing to the Buccaneers.

Sunday’s NFC South Divisional wildcard matchup between the Panthers and Saints played out true to form, with the Panthers top-ranked rush defense able to stifle the two-headed attack of Ingram and Kamara, but unable to keep pace with Drew Brees and the Saints air attack. In our preview of this matchup, I mentioned that Christian McCaffrey would need to have a huge day for the Panthers to gain ground on the NFC South champs. He had a monster game, including a game changing, fourth quarter, fifty-six- yard TD reception among over one hundred yards catching on the day. It just wasn’t enough to level the playing field, though McCaffrey’s video game acceleration away from five Saints defenders and an uncharacteristic interception from Drew Brees made the game much closer at the end. In fact, it was the largely unsung Saints defense that stifled a threating late drive after the interception, sacking a questionably healthy Cam Newton for -17 yards on fourth down to seal the win for the Saints.

Frequent readers of 10 Things will know that I have spilt much digital ink calling out teams for playing it loose and fast with the concussion protocol when it comes to quarterbacks with the game on the line. I’ll dispense with the lecture, but to be brief, Newton didn’t have a potential eye abrasion that cause him to woozily kneel down, in bounds, while attempting to walk off the field after taking the full force of a David Onyemata sack on the side of his helmet. In any case, his season’s over, so he can get the rest and medical attention he needs, but the Panthers put him in a very dangerous spot by putting him back in the game after a single series.

The Saints will go on the road next against the NFC North champion Vikings and we’ll see how Drew Brees’ playoff experience plays out against young Case Keenum, who clearly has to be the single-best third-stringer in the history of the NFL.

 

Image source: twitter.com/Saints

 

Tom Capo

Tom Capo writes about sports, parenting, food, wine and travel; but seldom all at once. He’s currently working on his first novel and collection of shorter fiction. He lives in the Bay Area with all of his girls; wife Allison, daughter Liliana and dog Artemis.

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