Saints 42, Panthers 10

Saints vs Panthers 2: Good, bad and ugly

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The Saints did their part to improve their playoff seeding by beating the Panthers 42-10. It was the last game of the season so it served as a dress rehearsal for the playoffs. Here are my observations:

The Good

-If you see pigs flying, it's because the refs revered a pass interference challenge. Michael Thomas had James Bradberry beat in the end zone, but Drew Brees underthrew the ball. While they didn't throw the flag initially, it was a pleasent surprise to see them overturn the call considering they've overturned less than 10% of PI challenges this season.
-The defense looked as good as it should have against a team struggling the way the Panthers have this season. The health of the defense is a concern going into the playoffs, but mid-season pickups, backups, and rookies have filled in admirably. The next man up mentality has paid off well. Here's to hoping it continues in the playoffs.
-Extremely classy move by the Panthers organization to honor Carley McCord with a moment of silence before the game. McCord was a Louisiana native who was a sideline reporter for WDSU in New Orleans that covers the Saints. She was one of the five passengers that passed away in a plane crash on Saturday.

The Bad

-On back to back plays in the 2nd quarter, corner Marshon Lattimore made bad plays. He was called for PI when he was trailing Curtis Samuel, didn't get his head around and bumped into him. The very next play, he missed an interception that ricocheted into his chest. Luckily, the Saints recovered a fumble. If not, Lattimore would have been directly responsible for giving up points as the Panthers were in scoring range because of his penalty and failure to secure the pick.

-Kyle Allen was Cam Newton's backup, until he was benched for Will Grier. When Grier left the game with an ankle injury, Allen came in and completed 10 of his first 15 passes. It didn't amount to much for the Panthers, but when a guy who was benched comes in and does that, it's not a good look for your defense.

-While the defense played well against a bad opponent, they had several brain farts late in the game which allowed the Panthers to move the ball down the field. When you have a team down by four or more scores and put the backups in, things won't look as crisp. But when some of those guys are expected to be contributors and/or rotational players, it takes on a different meaning.

The Ugly

-The score at halftime was 35-3. That's uglier than any ugly Christmas sweater you've seen over the holidays. The Panthers were playing with a 3rd string quarterback, but dammit man! At least scratch or pinch your opponent!

-Josh Hill was lined up to block Panthers' edge rusher Brian Burns in the 4th quarter on a 3rd&7. He totally whiffed on the block and allowed Teddy Bridgewater to get sacked. While Brees wasn't in the game, you still have to protect the quarterback better than that. If Bridgewater gets hurt, Taysom Hill would be the backup. That's not a bad thing, but it damn sure isn't a good thing.

-The rain was a factor in the game. Several times I saw players on both teams lose footing and look very shaky when running or moving about. Guys normally wear different cleats that help them gain better footing. This may have caused Grier to injure his ankle as his foot seemed to get caught in the turf when he was sacked by Cam Jordan.

The Saints knew what was possibly at stake and played this game accordingly. While there were some brain farts by the defense here and there, there wasn't much to gripe about. This was a beatdown. It was as if the Saints were sending a message to the rest of the NFC and anyone else doubting them that they're on a mission. Miami is the sight of the Super Bowl. The Saints won their only Super Bowl in Miami. Could we see a repeat performance? Baby steps. There's still at least two, possibly three playoff games to play.

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This week the NASCAR cup series heads to the world center of racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, for the inaugural fourth of July version of the Brickyard 400. This is unprecedented for NASCAR considering over the course of 50 years they are usually in Daytona around this time. While this move was met with a lot of criticism from fans, there is a positive to come from this move though, as the sport will hold their first doubleheader with Indycar. This has been talked about for many years and now it has finally come to fruition. Another new facet of this weekend will be the Xfinity Series running on the road course configuration. This could very well lead to the cup series transitioning from the oval to the road course next season should everything go well when the Xfinity series does it. It will definitely be an interesting weekend.

Last week, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin dominated the first-ever doubleheader at Pocono. The two drivers finished first and second in both races with Harvick taking race one and Hamlin winning race two. Both of these races came down to pit-road strategy as Harvick was able to eke out a victory by taking two tires and fuel while his teammate Aric Almirola took four. The next day Denny Hamlin pretty much had the whole field covered as he went on to claim his fourth victory of the season. Overall, the idea of two races in a weekend went over well but for the racing itself, it was hard to watch. One of the main issues I had was how the drivers didn't have to shift this week. In my opinion, that was what made this track so unique. It was an oval that had road course characteristics and it usually produced some pretty good finishes. Hopefully this will be addressed when the new car makes its debut in 2022.

One of the big stories going into this week is the announcement a couple of weeks ago that NASCAR will be moving their all-star event to Bristol Motor Speedway. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been a whirlwind of news from the Bubba Wallace story at Talladega, to the doubleheader races last week. A lot of this has put this announcement on the back burner but this is a huge story. The race will be held on Wednesday, July 15th as NASCAR continues with midweek races. This is the first time since 1986 that the race will not be run at NASCAR's home track in Charlotte back when it took place at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The format will be pretty much the same as all the winners from 2019 and 2020 will all have an automatic birth into the race while the rest of the field will run in the open event the day before. The main event will feature four stages including a 15 lap closer around one of NASCAR's most popular race tracks. I think this move was long overdue and I hope that they continue with it in the future. Don't get me wrong, there isn't anything wrong with the race at Charlotte but I think a change of pace would be welcomed. I look forward to seeing how this turns out.

As we move on to Indy this weekend, the driver I have winning is Kurt Busch. This weekend will be the 2004 Cup Series champion's 700th career start, and he's won just about every race that there is to be won except this one here at the Brickyard. This week, that is going to change. It hasn't been the most consistent season for the Vegas native, but he still sits tenth in points and right in the thick of the playoff battle. This track isn't his best as he currently has a 19.42 average finish, including a dismal 30th place finish last year. But this week, I think he gets back on track with a victory as he starts second. The veteran has flown under the radar this year, but he has definitely shown spurts where we think he is going to break-out. He also has runs where it seems like him and his team are mid-pack, but there aren't many drivers out there that have the experience he has. And a talented driver like him always finds a way to bounce back. Look for Kurt Busch to take the #1 Monster Energy Camaro to victory lane.

All stats and information used in this article are brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com, the best websites for all NASCAR stats.

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