Sunday was the kind of day that felt like Christmas morning. Saints fans got to watch the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose in the early games before watching New Orleans knock off the Carolina Panthers 31-21 to take a one-game lead in the NFC South with four games to go.
Here are five plays that had the Big Easy buzzing on Sunday.
Kamara Won’t Be Denied
The New Orleans Saints’ (9-3) first drive had the feel that something might have been said in the locker room about the offense’s poor performance in Los Angeles last week. The team came out sharp as nails and cut through the Panthers’ more-than-respectable defense with relative ease until bogging down at the two yard line after two incomplete passes and Mark Ingram getting stuffed for no gain. Field goal time? Nope.
Instead, on fourth down, Sean Payton dialed up his most electric player in a massive momentum shifting play early in the game. Drew Brees got the ball but instead of passing pitched to Alvin Kamara and the eventual rookie of the year did the rest. Kamara, following Michael Hoomanawanui’s block, was met at the goal line, and took a big shot from the Panthers’ Shaq Thompson, that wobbled Kamara backwards but then Kamara wobbled forwards into the end zone for an early Saints lead.
Mark Ingram Romps
It was a day where Mark Ingram was bottled up by the Panthers defense. In a way, overall Ingram had 13 rushes for 13 yards but it was that “other” rush that mattered the most.
With the game tied and settling into a battle, Ingram took the handoff from Brees. Fullback Zach Line demolished a blitzing defensive back and Max Unger manhandled the nose guard allowing Ingram to race into the defensive backfield untouched on his way to a 72-yard romp that set a “you’re not going to catch us today” tone right when the team needed it.
The Panthers did almost catch the Saints in the fourth quarter on a drive that seemed destined for a touchdown that would set up a way too close for comfort finale.
Cam Newton was starting to make plays and the Panthers drove deep into Saints territory. Facing a fourth down with six yards to go in the red zone, Newton completed a pass to Devin Funchess, but for only five yards.
Yes, Funchess cut his route off too short but this is the type of play defensive backs miss all of the time. Ken Crawley didn’t miss though. Crawley was stuck to Funchess like glue and enveloped the receiver and pushed him out of bounds for a drive-killing tackle.
Played Like a Banjo
However, it still wasn’t time for the victory daiquiri. The Saints, after killing the previous drive, got a little wacky with their play calls and needing only one yard to move the chains and kill more clock dialed up a pass play that saw Brees annihilated for a 10-yard sack. The next play was a baffling pass play as well resulting in a one-yard loss and the Saints were punting having knocked less than two minutes off of the clock. Football just gets crazy sometimes.
Thomas Morstead punted from the end zone and the Panthers’ Kaelin Clay was primed to put the Panthers in great field position. Unfortunately for Clay, the Saints best special teamer Chris Banjo tracked Clay down from behind and his picture-perfect tackle knocked the ball loose for the Saints’ Craig Robertson to recover and the Crescent City exhaled a collective sigh of relief.
As we all know the Saints went on to a huge victory that placed them alone at first place in the NFC South. The race is still up for grabs and looks like it could come down to the two games versus the Atlanta Falcons. But, I just want to talk about the latest Kamara hurdle.
As in, PLEASE STOP doing that, Mr. Kamara.
It looks cool and I love cool plays but now Kamara is known as a guy that does that and, to be honest, the hurdle this week got a little scary. Kamara’s busted lip from the play was the best possible outcome when, during the replay, it was evident that he landed on his head. With an Atlanta game on Thursday, how bad would it have hurt your Black and Gold soul to see Kamara out of the game because of that hurdle?
We need you Alvin! The only leap we want to see you execute is one into the stands after another touchdown. Who Dat.
And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every game should be accompanied by a beverage and song.
Beer Pairing: NOLA Brewing’s “Hoppyright Infringement” IPA
Playlist Recommendation: The Smithereens – “Top of the Pops”
Around the Way
Yes this is about the Saints as well but why talk about anything else? If you haven’t already it’s time to sharpen up your smack talking skills as the Saints travel to Atlanta Thursday to take on the Falcons at 7:25 p.m.
A win essentially destroys any Atlanta (7-5) dreams of winning the NFC South and could go a long way to knocking the dirty birds out of the playoffs altogether. Here’s hoping!