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Panthers vs Saints: 3 Plays to Love, 3 Plays to Hate

These key plays swung momentum and decided the Panthers 34-13 home loss against the New Orleans Saints, putting Carolina’s record at 2-1.  

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Plays to Love, Plays to Hate (aka "P2L, P2H") looks at the most significant plays in swinging momentum and impacting the eventual outcome of the game. There is always plenty to hate about NFL officiating, so we will only focus on the plays on the field, not the refs.

Three Plays to Love

2nd Quarter 13:42 – Panthers 3, Saints 7. Panthers ball 1st-and-10 at CAR 37

The Situation: The Panthers had adopted a “three yards and a cloud of dust” offensive game plan, yielding a first quarter field goal. But by early in the second quarter, the offense hadn’t generated any big plays.

The Play: Cam Newton started in shotgun with Curtis Samuel split wide right. Cam took the snap and bolted to his right for what appeared to be a QB sweep. But instead, Newton flipped the ball to Samuel on a reverse. Fill-in center Tyler Larsen made a nice block to seal the edge and Samuel motored 31 yards down to the New Orleans 32. The explosive play set up a field goal as the Panthers trimmed the Saints lead to 7-6.

2nd Quarter 1:20 – Panthers 6, Saints 14. Saints ball 1st-and-Goal at CAR 3

The Situation: The Panthers defense was on its heels as New Orleans faced 1st-and-Goal from the three yard line. A touchdown here would extend the Saints lead to 21-6 at the half.

The Play: Mark Ingram took a sweep left. Daryl Worley did an excellent job coming from the corner spot to penetrate into the backfield. Worley wrapped up Ingram and dropped him for a five yard loss, moving the Saints back to the eight yard line. Thanks to Worley’s nice tackle, the Saints had to settle for a field goal and a 17-6 halftime lead.

4th Quarter 9:50 – Panthers 13, Saints 27. Saints ball 3rd-and-1 at CAR 35

The Situation: The Saints led by 14 with just under 10 minutes left. They faced a 3rd-and-1 on the fringes of field goal range, looking for a knockout punch.

The Play: Adrian Peterson took the handoff looking to convert the first down, but the Panthers defensive line swarmed him, led by Charles Johnson and Mario Addison. Peterson was dropped for a two yard loss, resulting in 4th-and-3 and forcing the Saints into a 56-yard field goal attempt. Wil Lutz missed the long field goal as the Panthers took possession at their own 46.

Three Plays to Hate

3rd Quarter 13:51 – Panthers 6, Saints 17. Saints ball 3rd-and-7 at NO 28

The Situation: After an uninspiring first half performance, the Panthers trailed 17-6. The Saints received the ball to start the third quarter and faced a potential three-and-out. The Panthers needed a stop here to try to get some sort of momentum.

The Play(s): This is a two-part Play to Hate on the same drive, both geared toward Captain Munnerlyn. On 3rd-and-7, the Saints went trips right and threw a quick pass to Alvin Kamara. Captain was left unblocked and had a clean shot on Kamara, but Munnerlyn whiffed on the tackle and Kamara picked up just enough for a first down. Three plays later, the Saints faced 3rd-and-8 from their own 37. This time Munnerlyn was in zone and released Coby Fleener to guard – um, nobody? – and Brees threw a perfect pass just over Captain’s head to Fleener for a first down. Two plays later, Brees hit Ted Ginn for a 40-yard touchdown and a 24-6 Saints lead. Munnerlyn had two chances to force a punt, and he blew it both times.

3rd Quarter 7:08 – Panthers 6, Saints 24. Panthers ball 4th-and-5 at NO 35

The Situation: Carolina’s offense had been terrible all day and their defense couldn’t get stops. Facing 4th-and-5 from the New Orleans 35, Ron Rivera had three choices: 1) Go for it; 2) Attempt a 52-yard field goal; or 3) Punt.

The Play: In an inexplicable display of coaching cowardice, RON RIVERA PUNTED FROM THE SAINTS 35! The Panthers were down 18 in the third quarter against the always dangerous Drew Brees, and Rivera sent out the punt squad. The punt went into the end zone for a touchback, so the play netted 15 yards. Rivera may as well have raised a hand-written sign that read, “We give up.” What a gutless call. The Carolina crowd angrily booed the decision, and deservedly so.

3rd Quarter 5:46 – Panthers 6, Saints 24. Saints ball 3rd-and-3 at NO 27

The Situation: After Rivera’s weak punt, the Saints faced a three-and-out from their own 27.

The Play: Luke Kuechly came to the line, showing a blitz. Kuechly took a step toward the line, then dropped back into coverage. Brees didn’t anticipate Luke dropping into coverage and the Saints QB zipped a short pass right at Kuechly. Luke got both hands on the ball but just couldn’t reel it in. If Kuechly could have made the catch he would have waltzed into the end zone for a pick-six, cutting the deficit to 24-13. Instead, the Saints punted and drove the Panthers all the way back to their own 17.

Look, I’m not going to kill Luke for not making this play. It wasn’t an easy catch, but as Panthers fans we are just accustomed to seeing No. 59 make incredible plays like this. Few LBs could make that play, but Luke normally just does. A defensive score here could have shifted momentum for the rest of the game, but it just slipped out of Luke’s hands.

Closing It Out and Summing It Up

From start to finish, the Panthers just sucked all day.

Carolina’s allegedly great front seven got manhandled by a poor offensive line. New Orleans running backs regularly burst through open holes while Drew Brees faced little pressure. The Panthers secondary was no better.

The Panthers offense is flat out terrible right now. Cam looks awful as a passer and threw three bad picks. He used to be a dual-threat QB who was a shaky passer but could beat you with his legs, but now that he rarely runs he is just a shaky passer.

The offensive line can’t protect its QB or consistently open holes for their RBs.

The coaching staff has been bad as well, but it’s hard to determine just how much blame to pin on them. Mike Shula’s game plans are vanilla and predictable, but what is he supposed to do with the lack of talent across the offense? The offensive line is bad. Cam’s been bad. The wide receiver corps is one of the least talented from top to bottom in the entire NFL. Olsen and Kalil are missing. Realistically, how many points would a great OC generate with this well below-average offensive roster?

I still can’t believe Rivera punted from the 35. Forget “Riverboat Ron.” That toothless decision was a “Retirement Home Ron” move.

The only positive from this stinkfest was Christian McCaffrey reeling in nine receptions for 101 yards. He’s legit. He finds spots and gets open. He makes plays.

The Panthers now sit at 2-1 and dropped a divisional home game against a struggling NFC South opponent.


“P2L, P2H” Season Leaders

Plays to Love:

2 PTL – Mario Addison

1 PTL – Cam Newton, Charles Johnson, Curtis Samuel, Daryl Worley, Devin Funchess, Luke Kuechly, Russell Shepard, Tyler Larsen, Wes Horton

Plays to Hate:

3 PTH - Cam Newton

2 PTH - Captain Munnerlyn, Luke Kuechly

1 PTH - Christian McCaffrey, Daryl Williams, Matt Kalil


Which Play to Hate had the most significant impact on the Panthers loss?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    3rd Quarter - Munnerlyn fails on consecutive 3rd downs, leading to Ginn’s 40-yd TD
    (99 votes)
  • 61%
    3rd Quarter - Rivera punts from the NO 35
    (183 votes)
  • 6%
    3rd Quarter - Luke can’t reel in INT and possible pick-six
    (18 votes)
300 votes total Vote Now