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Panthers Thoughts: Week Seventeen – Ending On A High Note

Week 17 thoughts on the Carolina Panthers victory over the New Orleans Saints.

It’s been a long season for the Carolina Panthers, but they ended on a high note against the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday.

The team jumped out to a 10-0 lead but then Drew Brees and the Saints offense started to pick things up. That offense, combined with a Cam Newton pick six, allowed the Saints to take a 24-13 lead early in the third quarter. Things looked like they would get worse for the Panthers, but thanks to a fumble that wasn’t, the entire game shifted.

Greg Olsen fumbled the ball, which was then scooped up by a Saints player and returned for a touchdown, but the referee ruled that Johnny Patrick stepped out of bounds as he picked up the ball, which means he didn’t have possession, thus giving Carolina the ball back. Three plays later DeAngelo Williams took the ball 54 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-20.

After trading possessions, Charles Godfrey picked off Drew Brees and the Panthers took advantage of the good field position by converting on a long pass play to set up a short touchdown run by Mike Tolbert to go up 27-24. The team never looked back from there, stretching the lead to 41-24 with more help from their ground game. The Saints tried to claw their way back into things, but their defense, as it had done all year, let them down when it counted.

DeAngelo Williams once again upped his level of play and is making me feel really stupid for suggesting that the team should’ve traded him at the deadline. He finished with 210 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 21 carries. It took him awhile to find his footing without Jonathan Stewart but he did so in these last few weeks and in a big way. It was nice to see the explosive Williams back after watching him become tentative for the majority of his snaps since signing that new contract.

Cam Newton had an average game, but he didn’t have to be great and he made plays when he needed to. The most encouraging part about his game was that he ended fine after it looked like he may have injured his leg as he was being tackled. It would’ve been nice to see him play better against a terrible Saints defense, but with the way Williams was running the ball, it was better to see him just have to manage the game rather than go all out to win it.

The defense gave up a lot of yards, but that’s the be expected against a high power offense like the Saints. They made stops when they needed to as the offense built the lead and forced a big turnover. Luke Keuchly was once again all over the place and hopefully solidified his claim as defensive rookie of the year.

Finally, it was encouraging to see Armanti Edwards do something on special teams. Panthers fans have been waiting for years for him to turn into a kick return threat and he finally rewarded us with a 69 yard punt return to set up a Williams touchdown in a completely meaningless game. Baby steps I guess.

This victory put the Panthers at 7-9 on the year, which is a one win improvement from last year. It looks like Ron Rivera saved his job with this win streak, but I still think a lot of that depends on whether or not Chip Kelly is a viable candidate for the team.

It was a tough year for the team until the end when they got hot during a meaningless stretch but it’s always nice to end with a victory.

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