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 Bucs gave it their best shot in a meeting against the vaunted Ravens defense, but they came up just short in what ended up being a defensive slugfest.
Each team possessed the ball for three drives in the first quarter — five of those drives resulted in punts, and one ended up being a Ravens turnover. Tampa Bay took that turnover and turned it into seven points to draw first blood.
That started a string of five straight drives by both teams which resulted in points (this was a weird game). Following that Bucs score, the Ravens went on a 17-3 run to take control of the game. Baltimore’s defense took it from there, surrendering just one more field goal and forcing two fourth quarter turnovers to seal the game.
Jameis Winston tallied 157 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception. His leading receiver, Mike Evans, accounted for 121 of those yards on just four catches. Payton Barber recorded 85 rushing yards and the lone Bucs offensive touchdown.
On the other end, Lamar Jackson threw for 131 passing yards and a touchdown, while also adding 95 rushing yards. Gus Edwards was the leading rusher with 104 yards and a score. Willie Snead was the leading receiver with 58 yards through the air.
This game was a defensive slugfest with both offenses repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot, just like we all thought it would be (pretend that this was written in sarcasm font). The Panthers fell short at home after Cam Newton talked all of the talk. Carolina’s playoff hopes have essentially evaporated, while the Saints are in firm control of the top seed in the NFC.
It all started out great for Carolina, with Ron Rivera dialing up a ballsy yet brilliant Christian McCaffrey pass to Chris Manhertz on 4th down which went for 50 yards and a first quarter touchdown against a shocked Saints defense. New Orleans answered with a couple of field goals on their next two drives before both offenses traded punts and picks throughout the rest of the half.
The Panthers would commit two red zone turnovers, and Alvin Kamara would score the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter before Donte Jackson intercepted the ensuing two-point conversion attempt and returned it all the way for two more Carolina points.
The Saints would commit their own red zone turnover via a Tommie Lee Lewis fumble through the end zone with less than two minutes remaining. That gave Cam Newton one more opportunity, which was squandered by way of a turnover on downs.
Newton was dreadful — 131 passing yards, no touchdowns and one interception was his stat line, as Christian McCaffrey proved to be Carolina’s best quarterback on this night. McCaffrey was the leading rusher and receiver with 53 rushing yards and 67 receiving yards.
Drew Brees tallied 203 passing yards, no touchdowns and an interception — another stat-line which hurts his MVP chances in the eyes of those who look at more than just completion percentage when determining who should win the award. Alvin Kamara totaled 67 rushing yards and a score, while Michael Thomas had 49 receiving yards to pace all Saints pass catchers.
NFC South Standings after Week 14
2. Carolina Panthers (6-8 overall record; 1-3 divisional record) - Next vs. Falcons
3. Atlanta Falcons (5-9 overall record; 2-2 divisional record) - Next at Panthers
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9 overall record; 2-3 divisional record) - Next at Cowboys