It’s common knowledge in sports that, if you take care of your own business, you don’t have to worry about anybody else as far as the standings are concerned.
While this is entirely true, getting some help along the way is never a bad thing. This column will be completely dedicated to the results of the other three NFC South teams throughout the season, and hopefully we’ll be able to bask in their failures together.
The Falcons are on the upswing, riding a three-game winning streak, and looking to make the climb within the NFC South.
Early on, this one looked like it was going to be another easy Panthers victory, but then the Bucs tapped into their reserves of Fitzmagic to get it close, before Carolina ultimately pulled away in the fourth quarter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was a disaster at the start of this game — leading the Bucs to a three-and-out, an interception and then another punt in his first three drives. He just couldn’t connect with Mike Evans at all — completing one pass out of 10 targets to the big WR.
The Panthers got out to a 28-7 advantage in the second quarter, led by Christian McCaffrey’s two rushing scores. Fitzpatrick got it together, however, and ended up leading the Bucs to three more touchdown scoring drives.
Cam Newton threw a crucial TD pass to Curtis Samuel on 2nd-and-long in the fourth quarter, making the score 42-28. Tampa Bay would punt on their next drive and throw a pic on the drive after that one to go down with a whimper.
Fitzpatrick would end the afternoon with 243 passing yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. OJ Howard caught two of those TDs and went for 53 receiving yards. The run game was once again almost non-existent for the Bucs, who totaled just 82 combined rushing yards.
Cam Newton had 247 passing yards, two passing TDs and no interceptions thrown. McCaffrey had 79 rushing yards and two scores, along with 78 receiving yards to lead the team in both categories. Greg Olsen had 76 receiving yards and scored his third TD in as many weeks.
Well, this isn’t ideal. Falcons fans everywhere were counting on the undefeated Rams to beat the Saints and to put the Falcons back into the hunt for the division, but that just didn’t happen.
After both teams scored touchdowns on their first two drives, Mark Ingram fumbled and gave the ball to the Rams deep in Saints territory. On a 4th down fake field goal try, Johnny Hekker looked like he clearly got a first down but the refs ruled him short of the chains even after replay (even the great Mike Pereira disagreed with the call). The Saints took that momentum and put up 21 unanswered points to take a 35-14 lead.
The Rams answered back with 21-unanswered of their own in a time period spanning between the very end of the first half through the third quarter. New Orleans, up 38-35 late, got the crucial defensive stop they needed, and then Drew Brees found Michael Thomas for a 72-yard game-sealing touchdown after CB Marcus Peters wasn’t even ready for the play.
Brees lit up the Rams’ secondary for 346 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Alvin Kamara had 116 yards from scrimmage and three TDs. Michael Thomas was the leading receiver with 211 receiving yards and a score.
Jared Goff had 391 passing yards, three touchdowns and a crucial interception which resulted in New Orleans’ fifth TD of the first half. Todd Gurley was held largely in check with 68 rushing yards but he did score. Former Saint Brandin Cooks had 114 receiving yards and a touchdown.
NFC South Standings after Week 9
1. New Orleans Saints (7-1 overall record; 1-1 divisional record) - Next at Bengals
2. Carolina Panthers (6-2 overall record; 1-1 divisional record) - Next at Steelers (TNF)
3. Atlanta Falcons (4-4 overall record; 2-1 divisional record) - Next at Browns
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-5 overall record; 1-2 divisional record) - Next vs. Redskins