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Around the NFC South: Week 14

After a surprising loss a week ago, everything fell in the Saints’ favor this week.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

When the Buccaneers were the only NFC South team to win in week 13, it felt pretty unusual. Things got back to normal in week 14, with Tampa Bay losing and everything going the Saints’ way. With a Carolina loss, New Orleans was able to clinch the division before its game was even over. The Saints went on to win anyway, effectively ending the Bucs’ playoff hopes. Winning, clinching the division and ending a rival’s season? That’s not a bad Sunday.

Let’s check out the what went down in the NFC South during week 14.

New Orleans Saints (11-2)

The Saints survived a poor first half to pick up a 28-14 road win over the Buccaneers on Sunday. Drew Brees and the offense started slow for a second straight week, picking up just three points in the first 30 minutes. They trailed 14-3 until over halfway through the third quarter, when a Taysom Hill blocked punt set them up with good field position. Brees found Zach Line for six, then Alvin Kamara took the two-point conversion in to bring New Orleans within three. From there, the Bucs fell apart. By the end, the Saints had scored the final 25 points of the game to crush Tampa Bay’s already-slim playoff hopes.

Brees finished the day 24-of-31 for 201 yards and two total touchdowns, but did turn the ball over twice. Mark Ingram led the team in rushing with 52 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. The New Orleans defense was the story, shutting out the Bucs in the second half while finishing the day with four sacks and 10 quarterback hits.

Up Next: at Carolina Panthers (6-7)— Monday Night Football

Carolina Panthers (6-7)

The Panthers continued their free-fall on Sunday afternoon, losing 26-20 to the Browns on the road. The loss was Carolina’s fifth straight after a 6-2 start to the season. The two teams went back and forth early on, heading into halftime in a 17-17 game. Carolina won the third quarter 3-0, with former Buc Chandler Catanzaro connecting on a 30-yard field goal. But the Browns shut out the Panthers in the fourth quarter, putting up nine unanswered points to win the game. Carolina outgained Cleveland 393-348, but couldn’t get anything going offensively in the second half. One last drive ended in a Cam Newton interception, sending the Panthers under the .500 mark.

Newton threw for 265 yards and the interception on 26-of-42 passing. McCaffrey carried the Panther offense once again, rushing for 63 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries while catching six of his seven targets for 38 yards. Catanzaro was two-for-two on extra points and two-for-two on field goals in his Carolina debut.

Up Next: vs. New Orleans Saints (11-2)— Monday Night Football

Atlanta Falcons (4-9)

The Falcons lost their fifth straight game on Sunday, falling 34-20 on the road against the Packers. Atlanta took an early 7-0 lead on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ryan to Julio Jones, but Green Bay came back and scored the next 34 points to take a 34-7 lead into the fourth quarter. The Falcons scored the final 13 points of the game, but it wasn’t nearly enough. They outgained the Packers 344-300, but turned the ball over twice in the loss. One of the turnovers was a 22-yard pick six by Bashaud Breeland in the second quarter.

Ryan completed 28 of his 42 passes on the day for 262 yards and three touchdowns, but did get picked off for a touchdown. Ito Smith was Atlanta’s leading rusher, going for 60 yards on 11 carries, while Julio Jones caught eight of his 11 targets for 106 yards and two scores. But overall, the Green Bay offense was too much. With the loss, the Falcons are still alone in the NFC South basement.

Up Next: vs. Arizona Cardinals (3-10)