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Around the NFC South: Week Three

Before the Buccaneers came up short against the Steelers on Monday night, there was a thrilling divisional showdown that highlighted week three in the NFC South.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers suffered their first loss of the 2018 season on Monday night, falling 30-27 to the Steelers. A dreadful first half for Ryan Fitzpatrick and poor play from the secondary was too much to overcome, despite Tampa Bay outscoring Pittsburgh 17-0 in the second half. The Bucs, now in a first-place tie in the NFC South, will get back at it with a short week of practice before traveling to Chicago for Sunday’s game with the Bears (2-1). Before we turn the page, let’s look at what else unfolded around the division in week three?

New Orleans Saints (2-1)

The Saints found themselves in another shootout on Sunday, somewhat like the one they dropped to the Bucs on opening day. This time, they came out on top, beating the Falcons 43-37 in overtime on the road. The game was often a back-and-forth battle, with Atlanta fighting back every time New Orleans tried to pull away. A Drew Brees touchdown pass with 9:59 left gave the Saints a 30-29 lead, but the Falcons came right back to take a 37-30 lead. New Orleans responded with an 11-play, 81-yard drive that was capped off by a Brees rushing touchdown. After the defense forced overtime, the Saints won the toss and drove 80 yards in 7:05 to win the game.

Unsurprisingly, Brees had a monster day. He threw for 396 yards and three touchdowns on 39-of-49 passing while also adding two scores on the ground. In the win, he broke Brett Favre’s all-time completions record. Michael Thomas caught another 10 passes for 129 yards, setting a new NFL record for receptions through three weeks of a season (38). Alvin Kamara was his usual self as well, going for 190 total yards on 16 carries and 15 catches. For all of the success on offense, the New Orleans defense is still a concern after allowing 407 yards and 37 points.

Up Next: at New York Giants (1-2)

Carolina Panthers (2-1)

Carolina’s defense led the way to a 31-21 home win over the Bengals on Sunday. Cincinnati took an early lead, but then Cam Newton settled in. Two straight touchdowns (one rushing, one passing) gave the Panthers a 14-7 lead before Andy Dalton bounced back with a passing touchdown of his own. Carolina responded by outscoring Cincinnati 17-7 the rest of the way to earn its second win of the season.

Newton finished the day with four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing) and Christian McCaffrey ran for 184 yards on 28 carries. The offense did more than enough, as the defense came up with four interceptions on the day. Rookie Donte Jackson came up with two while Efe Obada and Luke Kuechly each grabbed one.

Up Next: vs. New York Giants (Week Five)

Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

The Falcons fell victim to a five-touchdown day from Drew Brees, falling 43-37 in overtime. Atlanta had a couple of chances to win the game, but both sides of the ball failed to come through. First, the defense allowed the Saints to tie the game with 1:15 left after a drive that lasted 5:43. Then, the offense got the ball back with a minute left and timeouts to work with, but nothing came out of it. After losing the coin toss in overtime, there wasn’t much the Falcons could do. The offense had to watch from the sideline as Brees and the Saints offense went 80 yards in 15 plays to win the game.

Matt Ryan had a huge day of his own, throwing for 374 yards and five touchdowns on 26-of-35 passing. Rookie receiver Calvin Ridley was his primary target, catching seven of his eight targets for 146 yards and three touchdowns. That’s not to say Julio Jones was ineffective, as he hauled in five of his six targets for 96 yards. Without Devonta Freeman, Atlanta didn’t get much going on the ground. Tevin Coleman ran for 33 yards on 15 carries and the team as a whole put up just 48 rushing yards.

Up Next: vs. Cincinnati Bengals (2-1)