Four more weeks in the 2015 NFL season and already the Carolina Panthers have clinched the NFC South title. The designation was not due to the Panthers win over the New Orleans Saints in an amazing shoot out, but the Atlanta Falcons loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Panthers-Saints game is a true representation of the old shoot out. Each team’s offense was able to push the ball up and down the field resulting in a total of 79 points being scored.
It looked as though the last team with the ball would win. But that proved not so to the chagrin of the Saints.
Whatever Cam Newton was able to do with the Panthers’ offense Drew Brees was almost able to accomplish with the Saints offense.
Newton threw five touchdown passes with the winning drive capping in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery with 1:05 remaining. The Panthers remain unbeaten. Newton finished with 28 completions on 41 attempts for 331 yards. He had to lead his team back in the fourth quarter twice.
He was sacked only once, but hassled throughout the game. He had to run 10 times for 49 yards to avoid the rush. He was hit hard enough in the third quarter to require a concussion test after Ted Ginn Jr. caught a 13-yard touchdown pass and Newton received a vicious hit from Saints linebacker Michael Mauti.
Brees passed for 282 yards and three touchdowns and Saints linebacker Stephone Anthony scooped up a fumble and returned it 31 yards and a score. He also became the first NFL player to return a blocked extra-point try for two points. The league changed the rules to allow it prior to the start of the season.
The fourth quarter was like a track meet. Carolina led the game 27-16 when Newton threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Devin Funchess. However, the Saints came back to take the lead 31-27 on a Brees’ 54-yard Touchdown pass to Brandin Cooks and a 24-yard scoring toss to Brandon Coleman.
Newton led the Panthers back when he hit Ted Ginn Jr. on a 45-yard touchdown pass, but the Saints came back when running back Mark Ingram scored on a 9-yard run with 5:21 remaining.
Newton also set up a 12-yard scoring pass to Mike Tolbert with a bootleg run of 30-yards on a fourth and one play early in the second quarter.
Panthers’ tight end Greg Olsen was Newton’s number one target with nine catches for 129 yards. Brandin Cooks had six receptions for 104 yards for the Saints.
The Saints grabbed three turnovers, but could only score one touchdown in the first half. Cornerback Delvin Breaux intercepted a pass and Kenny Vaccaro recovered an Olsen fumble, but the Saints could not score. Saints’ kicker Kai Forbath was able to kick a field goal off of one of those turnovers and missed a 38-yard field goal off the other. PANTHERS 41 SAINTS 38
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ rookie quarterback led his team on the third game-winning drive of his career as they beat the Atlanta Falcons. That drive resulted in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans.
He also scored his fourth rushing touchdown of his career on a 5-yard run in the first quarter and dashed up the middle of the field for 20 yards on a third-and-19 play to extend the winning drive.
Winston finished with 18 completions on 27 passes for 227 yards, one touchdown and an interception. He was sacked once.
Falcons’ quarterback Matt Ryan threw an interception to Bucs’ linebacker Lavonte David on the first play of the Falcon’s final series. Ryan finished with 30 completions on 45 attempts for 269 yards and a touchdown –- a 5-yard toss to Nick Williams that put the Falcons ahead 19-16 early in the fourth quarter.
Ryan finished with 30 completions on 45 attempts for 269 yards, a touchdown and interception. He was sacked three times. Falcons’ running back Devonta Freeman, who missed the previous game due to a concussion, returned and rushed for 47 yards on 14 carries and caught 10 passes for 56 yards.
Bucs’ running back Doug Martin rushed for 95 yards on 25 carries and one touchdown. Vincent Jackson caught 3 passes for 87 yards and Mike Evans caught five passes for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Falcons’ wide receiver Julio Jones had eight catches for 93 yards. That total put him at more than 100 receptions this season, the second time he has accomplished the feat in consecutive seasons. He leads the NFL in catches with 102 for 1,338 yards.
The Falcons have lost five consecutive games and six of seven after starting the 2015 season 5-0. BUCCANEERS 23 FALCONS 19
NFC STANDINGS Overall Division
C– CAROLINA PANTHERS 12-0 3-0
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 6-6 3-1
ATLANTA FALCONS 6-6 0-3
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS 4-8 1-3
(C- Clinched Division)
NFC SOUTH SCHEDULE
SAINTS @ BUCCANEERS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2015
FALCONS @ PANTHERS SUNDAY, DECEMBER 13, 2015
Courtesy of Mediotiempo.com