The Buccaneers snapped a four-game losing streak on Sunday with a 27-9 home win over the 49ers. However, they were mathematically eliminated from winning the division before they even took the field this week. Of course, they were out of the running for the NFC South title long ago, but now it’s official. Despite that, Tampa Bay is no longer alone in last place as we approach week 13.
Let’s get into what happened around the division in week 12.
New Orleans Saints (10-1)
The Saints picked up a 31-17 home win over the Falcons on Thanksgiving, marking their 10th consecutive victory. New Orleans scored the opening touchdown just 3:49 into the game and led the rest of the way. Atlanta got within 7-3 later in the first quarter, but Drew Brees led a 17-0 run that didn’t end until there were 22 seconds left in the third quarter. The Falcons never really got back in the game, due in part to turnovers. Overall, the Saints forced four turnovers to make up for being outgained 366-312.
Brees threw for just 171 yards and was intercepted for the second time this season, but he still put up four touchdowns in the win. His touchdowns went to some unlikely receivers, with Tommylee Lewis, Austin Carr, Dan Arnold and Keith Kirkwood each getting one. Eli Apple, Vonn Bell and Marcus Williams each recovered a fumble while A.J. Klein came up with an interception.
Up Next: at Dallas Cowboys (6-5)— Thursday Night Football
Carolina Panthers (6-5)
The Panthers continued their downward spiral on Sunday, falling 30-27 to the Seahawks at home. The loss was Carolina’s third in a row. It came in dramatic fashion, as the Panthers led 27-20 late in the fourth quarter. Russell Wilson connected with David Moore for a 35-yard touchdown to tie the game at 27 with 3:26 left. Cam Newton got Carolina in position to take the lead on the next possession, but Graham Gano missed a 52-yard field goal to give the ball back to Seattle. Wilson got his offense down the field to set up Sebastian Janikowski for a game-winning 31-yard field goal. The Panthers put up 476 yards to the Seahawks’ 397, but that wasn’t enough for a victory.
Newton completed 25 of his 30 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns (to one interception), but Christian McCaffrey was the story for Carolina. He ran for 125 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries while adding 112 receiving yards and another touchdown. He caught all 11 of his targets on the afternoon. Luke Kuechly led the defense in tackles with 12 (four solo), with 2 1⁄2 going for losses. Shaq Thompson and James Bradberry both came up with sacks in the loss.
Up Next: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7)
Atlanta Falcons (4-7)
The Falcons were mathematically eliminated from NFC South title contention with their 31-17 road loss to the Saints on Thanksgiving. New Orleans had them outmatched for much of the night, with Atlanta failing to stay competitive as far as the scoreboard is concerned. Atlanta fell behind 7-0 early before cutting it to 7-3, but the Saints put up 17 straight points to put the game away. Matt Ryan threw a two-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley late in the third to cut it to 24-10, but New Orleans responded with a touchdown of its own. A late touchdown from Ryan to Tevin Coleman did nothing but make the score a little more respectable. The Falcons put up 366 yards to the Saints’ 312, but they turned the ball over four times in the loss.
Ryan finished the night with 377 passing yards and two touchdowns on 35-of-47 passing, but threw one interception and lost a fumble. Ridley and Julio Jones also lost fumbles, but both had solid games otherwise. Ridley caught eight passes for 93 yards and a touchdown while Jones went for 147 yards on 11 receptions. Damontae Kazee came up with an interception for Atlanta.
Up Next: vs. Baltimore Ravens (6-5)