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Game Balls From the Saints Physical 18-10 Declawing of the Panthers

New Orleans starts 2022 strong with a smothering of division foe Carolina to keep their playoff hopes alive.

An 18-10 win over the Carolina Panthers yesterday allowed the New Orleans Saints to hold on to postseason aspirations. The Saints must beat the Atlanta Falcons, and need a loss by the San Francisco 49ers against the Rams, to get into the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

As has always been the case this year, nothing came easy for the Saints. Carolina QB Sam Darnold opened the game going 9 for 9 passing and the Panthers were able to run the ball well early in the contest. The Saints settled down and took physical control as the game progressed.

Offensively, the Saints weren't able to run the ball and had to depend on their low-ranked passing game to move the ball.

The Saints had 73 yards rushing in the game, but had a negative-four yards on the ground at halftime. A 30-yard run from RB Alvin Kamara and scrambles from Taysom Hill accounted for the bulk of their rushing yardage.

Hill was off-target at times during the day, but hit some key passes in throwing for 222 yards. His receivers bailed him out with some terrific catches.

New Orleans receiver Marquez Callaway (1) snags one of his six receptions against the Carolina Panthers. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

New Orleans receiver Marquez Callaway (1) snags one of his six receptions against the Carolina Panthers. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

Wideout Marquez Callaway had an up-and-down afternoon. Callaway dropped three passes, but had 6 catches for 97 yards and made some great grabs. Kamara was involved as a receiver early and had 5 receptions for 68 yards on the day.

A 12-yard touchdown pass from Hill to Kamara early in the fourth quarter ended a streak of 11 straight quarters without a touchdown. The score gave New Orleans their first lead of the day, and the Saints would turn the game over to their spectacular defense for the win.

New Orleans allowed the Panthers only 178 total yards, including just 30 in the third quarter. They sacked Darnold 7 times and registered 8 QB hits. Defensive tackles Christian Ringo, David Onyemata, and Shy Tuttle had some huge stops in the run game.

End Marcus Davenport had a quietly effective outing. Davenport recovered a fumble on a P.J. Williams sack, was terrific in run support, and forced several pressures that resulted in sacks. Linebackers Demario Davis and Kwon Alexander were instrumental all over the field.

Cornerbacks Marshon Lattimore and Paulson Adebo had spectacular outings. They were critical in holding Carolina wideouts D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson to just 5 receptions for 39 yards on 10 targets.

The Saints had a suffocating team defensive effort. However, two players stood out with spectacular days to keep the franchise's playoff push alive.

CHAUNCEY GARDNER-JOHNSON, S

Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (22) sacks Panthers QB Sam Darnold. Credit: cbs17.com

Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (22) sacks Panthers QB Sam Darnold. Credit: cbs17.com

Gardner-Johnson was a factor all over the field. He had just one tackle, but helped alter several plays in run support for teammates to make the stop.

With FS Marcus Williams sidelined by Covid and P.J. Williams leaving the game with an injury, Gardner-Johnson came up big in coverage. He broke up one throw and had a fourth quarter interception of Darnold to seal the win.

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Gardner-Johnson showcased the depth of one of the best defensive backfields in the NFL. He provided coverage just as smothering as Lattimore and Adebo from the slot, often allowing Darnold nowhere to go with the football.

CAMERON JORDAN, DE

New Orleans Saints DE Cam Jordan (94) celebrates a sack of Carolina QB Sam Darnold. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

New Orleans Saints DE Cam Jordan (94) celebrates a sack of Carolina QB Sam Darnold. Credit: neworleanssaints.com

Jordan turned in another outing worthy of All-Pro consideration. He had 3.5 sacks of Darnold, bringing his total to 11.5 sacks on the year. It is the sixth time in his 11-year career he's achieved double-digit sack totals, including fourth in the last five seasons.

More than just a terror to Darnold when he dropped back to pass, Jordan was a menace to the entire Panthers offense. He tied with Kwon Alexander for a game-high 8 tackles, which included six solo stops and three for loss.

Jordan was a factor along the edge and also when he moved inside. After a quiet start to the year that drew criticism in some circles, he has 7.5 sacks and 6 tackles for loss in his last three games.

The Saints must now beat their biggest rival, the Atlanta Falcons, for a chance at the playoffs. These teams met once in the postseason, a 1991 Wild-Card matchup. For the Saints, it's the biggest regular season game In their 105-game rivalry with Atlanta.

New Orleans will need some help to get to the postseason in a year full of trying obstacles. With a championship defense at all levels and some offensive players finally making plays, the Saints will be a tough matchup for anyone if they get there.

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