banner

NFL

more stats

NFL Preview - Carolina (6-9) at New Orleans (7-8)



By Michael Rushton, Contributing NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - The last time the New Orleans Saints finished a season 8-8, they followed up with their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

Nobody knows what the 2013 season has in store for the Saints, but they would like to build momentum by finishing this campaign at .500. They'll try to do just that with a third straight victory this Sunday against a Carolina Panthers squad looking to post its longest winning streak in four years.

The Saints reached double-digit win totals in each of their previous three campaigns following an 8-8 record in 2008. Of course, New Orleans followed up that campaign with a 13-3 regular season in '09 and marched all the way to a Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

New Orleans also won 13 games a season ago before getting bounced out of the playoffs, but then came an offseason that saw the franchise lose its head coach, Sean Payton, to a season-long suspension due to the well-publicized bounty scandal.

Without Payton, the Saints lost their first four games, including a 35-27 decision at Carolina on Sept. 16, but went on to win five of their next six to spark playoff hopes. However, New Orleans followed with three losses in a row to dash those dreams.

Still, the Saints are making a run at .500 thanks to a 41-0 home win over Tampa Bay on Dec. 16 followed with last weekend's 34-31 overtime triumph at the Dallas Cowboys.

New Orleans saw Dallas score 14 points in the final 3:35 of the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys failed to score in overtime and Garrett Hartley won it with a 20-yard field goal.

Drew Brees completed 37-of-53 pass attempts for 446 yards with three touchdown strikes. Marques Colston caught a season-high 10 passes for 153 yards, while Darren Sproles ran for 48 yards while also catching seven passes for 104 yards.

Mark Ingram ran for a touchdown, while wide receiver Lance Moore, running back Pierre Thomas and tight end David Thomas all caught touchdown passes.

"It's big for us," Ingram said of shooting for 8-8. "We had a rough year but everybody stayed working hard. Coming to work every day getting better and when we come out on Sunday we just try to put forth our best effort and that's what everybody's doing."

Linebacker Curtis Lofton forced and recovered a fumble for the Saints, while defensive linemen Tom Johnson and Junior Galette had sacks.

The Panthers are also hoping to finish the season strong and are on their first three-game winning streak since closing out the 2009 campaign with three victories in a row.

Carolina and quarterback Cam Newton survived a tough meeting with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, winning 17-6 in a contest that saw six combined personal four calls.

Newton received one of those flags for arguing with official and he also made contract with referee Jerome Boger.

Newton's maturity has been questioned at times, but was very apologetic afterwards.

"I apologized to the referee. What I said was disrespectful," Newton said. "I apologized during the game but I would like to do so publicly. It was just in the heat of the moment. I apologize again so the next time we see him or the next time I see him we'll be on good terms."

Newton threw for 170 yards with a touchdown pass to Steve Smith and also ran for a score. Rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly had nine tackles and an interception that helped set up a score.

Carolina outgained Oakland 271-189 and is trying to win four straight for the first time since Oct. 19-Nov. 16, 2008.

The Panthers will also try to sweep their season series with the Saints for the first time since 2008. They racked up 219 yards rushing and three scores on the ground in the earlier win over the Saints.

Brees threw for 325 yards with a TD pass and ran for a score, but was also picked off twice.

The win snapped Carolina's four-game slide to New Orleans.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sunday will mark the end of what has been an emotional roller coaster for the Saints.

Credit goes to assistant coach Joe Vitt, who filled in for Payton as interim head coach after serving his own six-game ban to start the season. Vitt will walk off the field with his head high and an unknown future with Payton expected back in 2013.

"I'm not thinking about that now," said Vitt. "We've have our mind on one thing and that's winning this football game. We have no long-term strategic plans from a coaching standpoint. That's for another day at another time."

Brees will also wrap another excellent season and is staring at a number of possible accolades.

He leads the NFL with 4,781 passing yards and 39 touchdown passes and set a new NFL record by completing 20-plus passes in 51 straight games. Brees is also the first player in NFL history to reach 4,500 passing yards in three straight seasons and has a shot of becoming the first player to have consecutive campaigns of 5,000 yards passing.

Brees is also one touchdown pass shy of joining Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to have two seasons with 40 or more touchdowns.

One of Brees' biggest strengths is his ability to spread the ball and the 2012 version of the Saints is just the second team in league history to have four players with at least 60 catches on the season. They join the 1990 Houston Oilers.

Brees will keep his eye this weekend on Kuechly, who is making a case for Rookie of the Year honors.

The ninth overall pick of the 2012 draft out of Boston College, Kuechly leads the Panthers with 151 tackles and grabbed his second career interception last time out.

Kuechly has helped Carolina post the eighth-ranked defense in the league and the club is giving up the fourth-fewest yards per game (301.2) since Week 5.

"We're just trying to make sure we point him in the right direction now," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "He is a heck of a football player and we will continue to coach him up, because believe it or not I think Luke Kuechly could be a better football player. I really do. He has that kind of ability. He is special."

Newton is also a special player and continues to grow in the NFL. He has passed for 11 touchdowns in his past six games and the only interception in that span came last weekend and ended a string of 176 straight attempts without a pick.

His 7,672 passing yards are 202 shy of Peyton Manning for the most over the first two seasons of a career.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

The season may end for the Saints and Panthers this Sunday, but both know how important it is to finish strong. Just see 2008 for New Orleans.

"I think how we finish the season, how we start the parameters and how we start our offseason affects everything that you do during the season," said Vitt. "What you do in the offseason has a direct correlation to what you do during the season. I think that we've been able to build the past couple of weeks on the character that we have in the locker room."

That is something the Panthers would like to emulate as they try to build a winning foundation in Carolina.

"I can tell you this, if we want to be the team we know we can be, a playoff contender, it's going to have to come down to winning games in November and winning games in December," declared Newton. "You see the great teams and they do it all the time. We just want to get that in our pedigree moving forward."

While the Panthers were able to record a home win earlier this season, the Saints put a 45-17 hurting on the Panthers at home a season ago. Brees threw five touchdown passes, including two to Colston and one to Sproles, while Newton was limited to 158 yards passing and 32 on the ground.

No reason for the Saints to take the foot off the gas this weekend.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saints 31, Panthers 24

12/27 13:26:34 ET

Other Stories

  • NFL: Chicago at Detroit

    Thursday at 12:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NFL: Philadelphia at Dallas

    Thursday at 4:00 pm on FOX50

  • SEC: Arkansas at Missouri

    Friday at 2:30 pm on WRAL-TV

  • HSFB: Football Friday with Tom Suiter

    Friday at 11:35 pm on WRAL-TV

  • CBB: Duke vs. Furman

    Tomorrow at 5:00 pm on 620am

  • CBB: NC State vs. Richmond

    Tomorrow at 7:00 pm on WRAL-FM

  • NHL: Hurricanes at Florida

    Tomorrow at 7:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

  • NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions

    Thursday at 12:30 pm on 99.9 The Fan

Scoreboard
Local
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
Final
WAS 102
ATL 106
 
4th
MIA 95
GSW 95
 
3rd
MIL 76
DET 67
 
3rd
NOP 66
SAC 75
 
2nd
DEN 42
CHI 33
 
4th
UMO 21
OHIO 21
 
Final
ECU 58
FRES 52
Final
ELON 74
MRGST 73
 
Final
MIZZ 61
PURD 82
Final
MAR 55
HAW 62
Final
UNF 77
LIB 57
 
Final
CHAM 85
BYU 121
Final
BUCK 58
MDES 55
 
Final
UGST 85
WCU 70
 
Final
UWGB 64
EVAN 62
 
Final
ARST 71
ALA 76
 
Final
OHIO 69
ARKPB 60
 
Final
UNH 75
BU 68
 
Final
OU 70
CHIST 57
 
Final
TOL 79
DET 82
 
Final
CLMB 57
FD 47
 
Final
QUIN 50
HART 54
 
Final
SFLA 71
HOF 70
 
Final
HARV 84
HOU 63
 
Final
BONA 79
JST 71
 
Final
STJOE 74
LIU 70
 
Final
SYR 70
GHND 37
 
Final
MLOWELL 102
MTIDA 57
 
Final
CIN 59
NCCU 50
 
Final
VT 54
NIOWA 73
 
Final
WOFF 82
OHVALLEY 54
 
Final
TEMPL 76
PENN 67
 
Final
RUTG 50
PETE 68
 
Final
BGU 62
SEMIZ 54
 
Final
LAS 73
Terriers 60
 
Final
UVA 79
TENST 36
 
Final
KENT 92
TXARL 44
 
Final
FSU 66
CITA 55
 
Final
PBY 63
TOCC 40
 
Final
COOK 56
TENNM 74
 
Final
WMARY 83
WILL 49
 
Final
USB 71
WKENT 61
 
Final
HIGH 88
WMPEACE 71
 
2nd
SMU 68
ARK 75
 
Final
ARMY 80
BING 54
 
Final
CSOU 80
CARK 67
 
Final
UMBC 54
HOW 68
 
2nd
ARZ 70
KYST 67
 
Final
OREG 63
VCU 77
 
2nd
PSU 64
AKR 61
 
2nd
SCST 82
CIU 44
 
2nd
CREI 70
EILL 47
 
2nd
ALAAM 52
JVST 60
 
2nd
ABCHRIST 78
JCHR 54
 
2nd
TXSA 49
LOYC 56
 
2nd
NDST 63
MNCROOK 56
 
2nd
NEB 63
NEOM 52
 
2nd
VANDY 57
NORST 45
 
2nd
STLU 40
NCAT 45
 
2nd
MTST 63
NARZ 53
 
2nd
TTU 71
NWST 60
 
2nd
TULA 68
SOUTH 52
 
2nd
ILLCH 76
STXAVIER 57
 
Final
TEX 78
RFLSH 46
 
2nd
BRAD 47
TAMCC 31
 
2nd
SMISS 67
TROY 66
 
2nd
DRAK 61
IUPUI 48
 
2nd
ARKST 50
LAM 57
 
2nd
FLGC 32
USF 20
 
1st
COL 37
AFA 15
 
1st
IDAHO 26
BSU 32
 
1st
GRCN 25
BUF 39
 
1st
ORU 25
LALAF 33
 
Half
CHAR 37
MIAMI 38
 
1st
ISU 11
MD 11
 
9:47pm Tonight
UMO
NW
10:00pm Tonight
SDST
PITT
10:00pm Tonight
MICH
VILL
10:05pm Tonight
SACST
BRISTOL
 
11:00pm Tonight
USC
CSFU
11:00pm Tonight
STAN
DEL
Final
CLB 2
WIN 4
 
2nd Intermission
NAS 3
LOS 2
 
2nd Intermission
STL 2
OTT 0
 
2nd
DAL 2
EDM 1
 
1st Intermission
ARI 3
COL 0
 
10:00pm Tonight
ANA
CAL
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
NJD