Week 15 Game Recap: Carolina Panthers 27, New Orleans Saints 10
What you need to know
The Panthers’ offensive mindset was to control the game on the ground and DeShaun Foster was the workhorse. Foster carried the ball a total of 21 times in the game for 75 yards while Nick Goings contributed with 52 yards of his own on the ground. Carolina was able to take advantage of turnovers and a weak New Orleans rush defense in the victory.
Steve Smith continued his spectacular play this season with two touchdowns in the contest. Smith rushed for his first career touchdown and scored on a 15 yard pass from Delhomme in the third quarter to extend the lead. He set a single season franchise record with his 15 yard touchdown catch with 1,414 yards, breaking the record set by Muhsin Muhammad last season. Smith now has 93 receptions on the season a career high.
Carolina’s defense forced six New Orleans turnovers which they converted into 13 points. The Panthers’ shutdown the Saints inside running game and dominated the line of scrimmage, forcing Todd Bouman to pass the ball. Defensive backs, Mike Minter, Chris Gamble and Ken Lucas each had an interception for Carolina. Defensive end, Al Wallace also recorded an interception off a deflection. Dante Wesley and Mike Rucker each had a fumble recovery.
With the victory, Carolina is now in sole possession of first place in the NFC South with Dallas and Atlanta remaining on the schedule.
The Saints managed to hang with the Panthers for the first quarter and had a chance to take the lead but once again costly turnovers, dropped passes and penalties plagued New Orleans. With six turnovers in the game, the Saints now have a turnover ratio of -21, worst in the NFL.
Todd Bouman made his first start since 2001 and looked strong in the first quarter, completing his first five pass attempts and throwing a touchdown pass. His success was short lived as he threw three interceptions on three consecutive possessions going into halftime. Bouman appeared rattled after the interceptions and the frequent dropped passes by his receivers and never was able to recover. He finished the game completing 17 of 34 for 193 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Two of those interceptions were thrown in the end zone which could have made the game close.
Aaron Stecker and Donte Stallworth provided the offense for New Orleans. Stecker combined for 101 total yards and was effective running outside and catching passes out of the backfield. Stallworth scored the lone touchdown for the Saints on a 23 yard strike from Bouman. He finished with 102 yards on just five catches. Stallworth set a new career high with 63 receptions for the season.
Aaron Brooks saw his 82 consecutive start streak end as Todd Bouman got the starting nod. Brooks’ streak was the second longest streak amongst active NFL quarterbacks.
What you ought to know
|QB Jake Delhomme, Pass: 13 - 21 - 176 - 1 TD / 1 INT, Rush: 1 - 2 - 1|
Delhomme led a rather conservative passing game, aided by a strong running attack, to beat New Orleans and put Carolina in sole possession of first place in the NFC South. He threw just ten passes in the first half, completing eight of them for 116 yards including the 40 yard bomb to Drew Carter. The second half saw much of the same conservative play from Delhomme as he passed for just 60 yards and a touchdown. Delhomme finished the game completing 13 of 21 for 176, one touchdown and an interception. His touchdown was a 15 yard pass to Steve Smith. His interception was not his fault but instead a pass that should have been caught by Keary Colbert, who failed to come back for the ball thus the defender, was able to grab the ball as it reached Colbert’s hands. Delhomme also had a lost fumble on a sack but New Orleans did not capitalize on the turnover. He scored his first rushing touchdown of the season taking a quick snap from center right up the middle for the two yard score.
With Stephen Davis on injured reserve, Foster moved into the starting role and carried the rushing load for Carolina for three quarters. Foster appeared to have some difficulty maintaining traction on the loose turf, often slipping while attempting to change direction or bounce outside. His numbers were respectable, gaining 75 yards on 21 carries but may have been better if it were not for the traction problem. One disappointing stat was his longest carry for just nine yards against a weak Saints’ rush defense. With the game in control, Foster was removed from the game after three quarters as a precaution after sustaining a “stinger” to his shoulder last week.
|RB Nick Goings, Rush: 16 - 52 - 0, Rec: 2 - 36 - 0 (2 targets)|
Goings saw limited action through the first three quarters before carrying the load in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach and Foster resting on the sidelines. He produced some decent numbers carrying the ball 16 times for 52 yards while adding another 36 yards on two receptions. Goings lined up as a wide receiver for one play and caught a 30 yard pass from Delhomme, rumbling 19 of those yards after the catch before being knocked out of bounds deep in Saints’ territory.
Fullback, Brad Hoover had four carries for 12 yards on the day. Two of his four carries were on third and short attempts that he plowed his way for the first down.
Stephen Davis was placed on IR on 17 December, ending his season and leaving the running duties to DeShaun Foster.
|WR Steve Smith, Rush: 1 - 20 - 1, Rec: 6 - 85 - 1 (10 targets)|
Smith continues to put up great numbers week after week and this game was no different. He did not get into the flow of the passing game until the second quarter but found the end zone on a first quarter end around from 20 yards away. Smith’s great speed allowed him to break away down the left sideline, as he leaped for the end zone he was knocked out of bounds but the officials ruled he had broken the plane of the goal line. The score was the first rushing touchdown of his career. Smith and Delhomme chipped away with short completions before hitting one deep for a 33 yard gain late in the third quarter that put Carolina in the red zone. Two plays later, Delhomme threw a bullet to Smith on the slant route, Smith made two spin moves on his way to the end zone for a 15 yard touchdown. With that catch, Smith set a single season franchise record with 1,414 receiving yards. Smith led the Panthers’ with six receptions for 85 yards, one carry for 20 yards and two touchdowns. Fox announcers reported in the first half that Smith was not feeling well and may have been dehydrated but the apparent illness did not seem to affect his performance in the game.
Carter saw the first action of his career and may have given the Panthers’ the number two receiver they need to compliment Steve Smith. He made his first career reception something to remember converting a third down play for a huge 40 yard gain that helped set up a touchdown. There appeared to be some question as to whether he held on to the pass but Carolina quickly ran another play to avoid a challenge by New Orleans. Carter had two catches for 48 yards in his debut. With Rod Garner cut earlier this week and disappointment from Colbert throughout the season, Carter may get his first career start next week.
Colbert saw his only targets in the second half and did not have a reception. He dropped his first target and had the second snatched from his hands by Carolina’s T.J. Slaughter for an interception.
Proehl had two targets but like fellow receiver Keary Colbert had no receptions in the game.
After catching four passes in last week’s game, Mangum spent most of his time blocking for Foster and Goings. He had just one reception for minus three yards on Carolina’s last possession of the game.
The Panthers’ rush defense held Stecker and Smith to under 100 yards in the game and kept both out of the end zone. The Carolina defensive line clogged the middle throughout most of the game and forced the Saints’ running backs outside. Defensive end, Julius Peppers limped off the field in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Peppers’ left ankle was taped and he did return to the game. Defensive end, Al Wallace had his second interception of the season. Defensive end Mike Rucker recovered a fumble.
The Panthers’ recorded a team sack (Bouman lost fumble behind the line of scrimmage) and put enough pressure on Todd Bouman to force five turnovers. Carolina held the Saints to 193 passing yards but did allow an early touchdown pass from Bouman. Ken Lucas, Chris Gamble and Mike Minter each had an interception for Carolina.
|QB Todd Bouman, Pass: 17 - 34 - 193 - 1 TD / 4 INT, Rush: 3 - 10 - 0|
Bouman made his first start since 2001, replacing an ineffective Aaron Brooks. His audition as the starter looked promising early in the first quarter as he countered a Carolina touchdown with an 80 yard drive culminating with a 23 yard touchdown strike to Donte Stallworth. That was the bright spot of Bouman’s performance and things quickly spiraled downhill from that point. After a three and out, Bouman threw three interceptions on three consecutive possessions including a “hail mary” attempt before the half that sailed well over his intended receivers. Bouman was fairly well protected in the pocket but just could not get back on track after being rattled by the first interception. In fairness to Bouman, three of his four interceptions were not necessarily his fault, including the “hail mary”. One interception was tipped at the line then dislodged from the receiver, another Donte’ Stallworth elected to break his pattern and go around the defender allowing an easy interception for Mike Minter. His final interception was clearly his fault not putting enough arc on the ball on a fade route in the end zone. Bouman added to his misery while scrambling was untouched and still lost control of the ball and fumbled. His final numbers were 17 of 34 for 193 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.
Aaron Brooks, who was benched in favor of Todd Bouman, saw his 82 consecutive starts at quarterback come to an end.
Stecker was more productive than Antowain Smith on the ground and gave New Orleans the added dimension in the passing game out of the backfield. His quickness and ability to bounce outside led to several runs of over ten yards which kept him on the field over Smith. Stecker ended the day with nine carries for 59 yards with his longest carry going for 16 yards. As a receiver, Stecker added another 42 yards to his stats on six receptions.
Smith was ineffective at running back with his longest run of the game netting just five yards. With his inability to break to the outside, Smith was limited to running inside the tackles and Carolina was successful on shutting him down. Smith had ten carries for just 25 yards on the ground.
Fullback, Mike Karney had two targets coming out of the backfield but come away with no receptions.
Without question, Stallworth was Bouman’s favorite target throughout the game. Stallworth’s made some excellent receptions for significant yardage but he also had several dropped passes and a couple of poorly executed pass routes. He ended with five receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. His longest reception of 43 yards put New Orleans in the red zone with a chance to take the lead but three plays later, Stallworth ran a poor route and the pass that could have been a touchdown but instead turned into an interception. Earlier in the game, Stallworth found a hole in Carolina’s zone defense on a 23 yard touchdown strike from Bouman that evened the score. Stallworth had another scoring opportunity late in the fourth but the pass was under thrown by Bouman and intercepted.
Hakim caught three of four targets for 35 yards producing a first down on each reception. He did not perform well returning punts with just seven yards on three attempts and a lost fumble resulting in a field goal for Carolina.
Henderson caught Bouman’s first pass attempt of the game for a one yard gain. He did not get another target for the remainder of the game as Az-zahir Hakim saw most the snaps in three receiver sets.
Normally a favorite target for Aaron Brooks, Horn posted his worst numbers of the season with Todd Bouman at the helm. Horn caught just one pass in the first quarter for six yards and did not get another target late in the third quarter.
Hilton had just one catch for seven yards and was not a key target in the passing game. He did have an end zone target but the pass was tipped by Carolina linebacker Will Witherspoon.
The Saints’ rush defense showed again why they are near the bottom of the NFL against the run allowing Carolina to exploit them for 161 yards and two rushing touchdowns. They did keep Foster and Goings from scoring but instead watched Steve Smith and Jake Delhomme each find the end zone. Defensive end, Charles Grant led the Saints with 11 tackles and a recovered fumble.
The Saints’ defense played a decent game, holding Delhomme to just 176 yards and a touchdown. They gave Delhomme plenty of time in the pocket and registered just one sack by Jason Craft. Craft also recorded a force fumble on the sack which Charles Grant recovered. Linebacker, T.J. Slaughter recorded his first career interception.