Saints lose 33-14 in a meaningless game

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints loss to the Panthers

Michael C. Hebert, Saints website

With homefield advantage locked up in the NFC, this game meant nothing to the Saints and it showed. Here's how I saw the 33-14 loss to the Panthers:

The Good

-Michael Thomas broke Joe Horn's franchise record for receiving yards in a season and extended his own record for catches in a season. He is now in the conversation for league's best. Every year when the new Madden football video game comes out, the argument ensues on who should be rated a 99 overall. Thomas is now in that conversation as well.

-Sean Payton is a gambler as a play caller. I enjoyed his fourth down gambles in this game. While I may have disagreed with some of the plays he called on those attempts, I like the idea of going for it in a meaningless game.

-It felt good as a football fan to see Teddy Bridgewater getting a chance to start today. After all he went through with the devastating leg injury that not only could've cost him his career, but his leg as well. However…

The Bad

-…Teddy looked like a guy who hasn't played much quarterback in the last two years. One specific instance that came to mind was a play he tried to extend and make a play down the field. Mark Ingram was wide open in the flat. As Teddy scrambled then looked at Ingram, the defense closed in and stopped Ingram for a loss after he finally caught the ball. That could've been a nice gain.

-The defense gave up too many yards to an injury-depleted team. Giving up 374 total yards to a 6-9 team that waved the white flag on the season two weeks ago is not how you want to enter the playoffs.

-One of the main reasons the defense gave up too many yards to the Panthers was a lack of pressure. The Saints recorded one lonely sack in this game. Mind you, the defense was going against a first time starting quarterback and a couple backups on the offensive line.

The Ugly

-Speaking of that first time starting quarterback, Kyle Allen was made to look like a Pro Bowler. Allen, who was a journeyman in college because he couldn't stick anywhere after being highly recruited, went 16 of 27 for 228 yards and two touchdowns. He also added five carries for 19 yards and a rushing touchdown.

-Sheldon Rankins, Andrus Peat, and Alex Okafor all left the game with an injury. None of them seemed serious. All three guys are key components to this team's success heading into the playoffs. The bye week and being at home will do them, and several others, some good to heal.

-As I mentioned earlier, I was happy to see Thomas break Horn's record. I was not happy to see it took him until the fourth quarter of a meaningless game in which the score was lopsided to do so. Feed him the ball on safe plays like bubble screens, shovel passes, hitches, and quick outs or slants. He only needed 24 measly yards. Why take forever getting him the record and risk him getting hurt?

With the No. 1 seed locked up, this was nothing more than a fifth preseason game. Several players got extra work in. Bridgewater got a chance to play against live competition. Thomas got his record. Ingram got some touches after missing the first four games with a suspension. If it means anything, losing to the Panthers, Bucs, and Cowboys in 2009 meant winning a Super Bowl. Let's hope that omen holds up this year.

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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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