The Saints escaped the Panthers' lair with a win

The good, bad and ugly from the Saints win over the Panthers

Michael C Hebert/Saints team site

The Saints continue their playing-with-fire ways and barely escaped Carolina with a 12-9 win over the Panthers. Here's how I saw it play out:

The Good

-Sean Payton dialed up the right play on 4th & inches just before the two minute warning in an attempt to ice the game. The Panthers packed the line in anticipation of an inside run or quarterback sneak. They rushed from the huddle and Drew Brees pitched it to Alvin Kamara for a first down.

-The pass rush was able to harass Cam Newton to the tune of four sacks. The number likely could have been higher if Newton wasn't the size of most tight ends or defensive ends.

-Eli Apple was sent packing from the Giants earlier this year. The former first round pick came up with a key interception in the end zone while playing man coverage on the 6'5 Devin Funchess.

The Bad

-Panthers go for it on 4th & 2 on the 50 yard line early in the first quarter. Not only did they convert, but they scored a touchdown on the play. Christian McCaffrey took the handoff then threw it to a wide open Chris Manhertz for the score.

-Left guard Andrus Peat was called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for pushing a Panthers defender well after the play had ended. The Saints were on their own 48 yard line and had gotten a first down. The penalty pushed them back to the 33 and they eventually had to punt.

-On their second and third possessions, the Saints failed to score touchdowns and had to settle for field goals. Those are drives this team had been finishing to start the season, but have settled for field goals or punts as of late.

The Ugly

-Center Max Unger went to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. The team is already without starting left tackle Terron Armstead. Potentially playing the season ending stretch without two starting offensive lineman is scary.

-Brees threw the rare pick two on a two point conversion attempt after they took a 12-7 lead. The Panthers had everything covered, but Brees decided to force a pass in a tight window on the run. It cut the lead to 12-9. Had he been a tad more patient, he had a tight end at the back of the end zone that would've been a better option.

-Tommy Lee Lewis had one job: DON'T FUMBLE! All he had to do was stay in bounds. The Saints could've kicked a field goal. Instead, the fumbled ball goes into the end zone and ruled a touchback. Although it gave the Panthers life, they couldn't take advantage of it.

The Saints now have over a 90% chance to secure homefield advantage in the NFC playoffs. They're playing like a dumpster fire on offense instead of just being on fire like they were earlier this year. They've got some work to do in order to make another Super Bowl run. Good thing it seems as if that road will go through New Orleans.

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The Astros have assigned left-handed reliever Matt Gage to minor league camp, which means Houston's pitching staff is likely to head into the season without a lefty in the bullpen.

Ronel Blanco and Seth Martinez are expected to be the last two pitchers in the Astros bullpen now that Gage isn't expected to fill a spot on the club. With the Astros playing so many games in the month of April, could we see Blanco or Martinez making some starts with Lance McCullers still on the shelf?

Plus, should the Astros check in on Yuli Gurriel for some depth considering his versatility and the loss of Jose Altuve for the first couple months of the season? Gurriel still hasn't been added to the Marlins 40-man roster, which means he can opt out of his deal on Saturday if nothing changes.

Based on how things played out for Carlos Correa, the guys aren't very confident the Astros would change their stance on Yuli. But you never know.

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