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Around the NFC South: Week 15

The Buccaneers were officially eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday’s 20-12 loss to the Ravens. What else happened around the division in week 15?

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers lost an ugly 20-12 game to the Ravens in Baltimore on Sunday, watching any slim chance at a .500 record fade away. With back-to-back losses and some recent success for the Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay has sunk back into a last-place tie in the division, sitting at 5-9 with two games left in the season.

Before the Bucs travel to Dallas for a week 16 matchup with the Cowboys, let’s check in on the rest of the NFC South.

New Orleans Saints (12-2)

The Saints couldn’t get anything going offensively against the Panthers on Monday Night Football, but still came up with a 12-9 road victory. New Orleans fell behind 7-0 with 4:02 left in the first quarter and didn’t take its first lead of the night until the 12:12 mark in the fourth quarter, but the defense did enough to pick up win No. 12 on the year. After falling behind by a touchdown, the Saints got field goals of 46 and 24 yards by Wil Lutz. They finally found the end zone early in the fourth when Alvin Kamara ran for a 16-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was intercepted and returned for a defensive conversion, but those two points were the last of the night for Carolina.

Drew Brees completed 23 of his 35 passes for 203 yards, but was intercepted once. Kamara was the difference-maker for New Orleans, rushing for 67 yards and a score on 14 carries. He also caught seven of his nine targets for 36 yards. The New Orleans defense kept Cam Newton and the Carolina offense in check, allowing just 247 yards and forcing two turnovers. A.J. Klein recovered a fumble and Eli Apple came up with an interception in the victory.

Up Next: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-5-1)

Carolina Panthers (6-8)

The Panthers lost their sixth straight game on Monday, falling 12-9 at home to the division-winning Saints. Things got out to a nice start for Carolina, with Christian McCaffrey throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chris Manhertz late in the fourth quarter. The early lead lasted a while, with the Saints’ high-powered offense only putting up six points in the first three quarters. After the Panthers fell behind 12-7 early in the fourth quarter, rookie Donte Jackson intercepted the Saints’ two-point attempt and returned it for a defensive conversion. Even from there, Carolina couldn’t complete the upset. One last drive ended in a turnover on downs, leading to another loss for the Panthers.

Cam Newton was off against New Orleans, throwing for just 131 yards and an interception on 16-of-29 passing. McCaffrey continued to carry the Panthers on offense, doing it all. In addition to his 50-yard touchdown pass, he ran for 53 yards on 15 carries and caught a team-high eight passes for 67 yards. Defensively, Luke Kuechly led the way with 13 tackles (11 solo), two tackles for loss and a pass defended.

Up Next: vs. Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

Atlanta Falcons (5-9)

The Falcons snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday with a 40-14 home victory over the Cardinals. After falling behind 7-0, Atlanta scored the next 40 points, coasting to a blowout win. The offense clicked and the defense came through, even scoring a touchdown of its own. In fact, it was Deion Jones’ 41-yard pick six that tied the game at 7-7 and sparked the Falcons’ run. Overall, Atlanta outgained Arizona 435-253 in addition to forcing three turnovers.

Matt Ryan looked solid on Sunday, completing 22 of his 36 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a touchdown, adding to a rushing attack that was led by Tevin Coleman’s 145-yard, one-score performance. Julio Jones led the Falcons in receiving, catching six of his eight passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Deion Jones’ interception was a big one, but Brian Poole came up with two turnovers of his own (one interception, one fumble recovery).

Up Next: at Carolina Panthers (6-8)