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 division is out of reach for the Falcons at this point, but let’s keep up with how the division foes are doing anyway.
The Buccaneers had New Orleans on the ropes in this game, and then blew it by way of special teams, as they often do.
Jameis Winston picked the Saints defense apart on the first drive of the game, leading his team 75 yards and into the end zone. He would lead another good drive at the end of the first quarter, following a couple of promising stops by the Bucs defense. However, Cairo Santos would squander that drive with a missed field goal attempt.
Thanks in part to a Drew Brees interception, Tamps would find the end zone again right before halftime to take a 14-3 lead into the break. They would fail to add points following a Brees fumble to open the second half, as Santos missed another field goal attempt.
The game turned on its head when the Saints blocked a Brian Anger punt on Tampa’s very next drive, and then turned the ensuing favorable field position into a touchdown. The Saints would go on to get points on every ensuing drive in which they possessed the ball, including two more touchdown drives in a row.
Brees didn’t turn in a strong performance in his MVP quest, throwing for 201 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. Mark Ingram totaled 52 rushing yards and a score to lead the team, while Michael Thomas racked up 98 receiving yards on 11 catches. With this win, the Saints have officially clinched the 2018 NFC South title.
Jameis Winston turned in 213 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception which was thrown in garbage time. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 47 yards. Mike Evans led the team with 86 receiving yards but it was Cameron Brate who caught both touchdowns (his only two catches of the game).
That sound you’re hearing is the Carolina Panthers continuing to fall into a seemingly endless abyss. Ron Rivera’s men have gone from 6-1 and looking to compete for home-field advantage to 6-7 and burning away nearly all possible playoff hopes.
Knowing that this was likely a must-win game, the Panthers’ offense came into it and threw some first-quarter punches — putting up 14 points in the opening period by way of Christian McCaffrey touchdowns. However, the Browns just kept answering and throwing counterpunches of their own.
Every single Carolina scoring drive in the first half was immediately matched by an identical scoring drive by the Browns. At halftime the score was 17-17 with the Panthers having led three separate times.
Carolina would take their fourth lead of the game by way of a field goal, midway through the third quarter. The Browns would punt, get the ball back on a Panthers punt and then finally take their own lead following a 70-yard drive which was capped by a Nick Chubb touchdown run. They would add a field goal to their lead to go up by six, one drive later.
The Panthers had a chance to reclaim the lead on a late drive, but turned it over on downs after getting to the Cleveland 3-yard-line. It seems as if Carolina turns it over on downs in crucial situations every week at this point.
Cam Newton threw for 265 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception. McCaffrey led the team with 63 rushing yards and those two aforementioned touchdowns. Curtis Samuel was the leading receiver with 80 receiving yards.
Baker Mayfield accounted for 238 passing yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Nick Chubb had 66 rushing yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Jarvis Landry tallied 111 yards from scrimmage while scoring a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown.
NFC South Standings after Week 14
1. New Orleans Saints (11-2 overall record; 3-1 divisional record) - Next at Panthers
2. Carolina Panthers (6-7 overall record; 1-2 divisional record) - Next vs. Saints
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-8 overall record; 2-3 divisional record) - Next at Ravens