Coming into the 2020 season, many looked at Tampa Bay as potential players in the NFC South and the NFC as a whole. However, New Orleans was still the popular pick to take the division. The Saints were seen by many as the division’s top dogs, and they still very well might be, but through eight weeks of the season, it’s the Bucs leading the way by half of a game. That makes this Sunday night’s meeting between the Bucs and Saints that much more meaningful, especially considering the latter holds the tiebreaker thanks to their victory in the first meeting between the two sides.
But before we get to what’s ahead in Week 9, let’s check in on Tampa Bay’s divisional mates and see what all went down for them in Week 8. Let’s get into it.
New Orleans Saints (5-2)
The Saints were on the road in Chicago this week and got all they could handle against the Bears before ultimately winning the game 26-23 in overtime. Things weren’t looking so good late in the second quarter for New Orleans as it trailed 13-3, but a quick nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive in 1:36 closed the gap to 13-10 with three seconds to go before halftime. That turned out to be the start of a 20-0 run for the Saints, who led 23-13 late in the fourth quarter. The Bears came roaring back, though, with a Nick Foles touchdown pass getting them within 23-20 with 3:32 to go before a 51-yard field goal by Cairo Santos with 13 seconds left sent the game to overtime. The two teams battled it out for much of the extra period, but Wil Lutz’s 35-yard field goal with 1:36 left helped the Saints avoid the tie and earn their fourth straight victory.
Drew Brees had a solid statistical day, completing 31 of his 41 pass attempts for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Alvin Kamara continued to be one of the more dangerous dual-threat running backs in the game, rushing for 67 yards on 12 carries while adding nine catches for 96 yards. He didn’t find the end zone, though, as it was instead Jared Cook and Taysom Hill catching touchdowns from Brees in the game. Lutz turned out to be the hero in overtime, despite missing an earlier kick. Marshon Lattimore intercepted Foles for the game’s only turnover.
Up Next: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-2) — Sunday Night Football
Carolina Panthers (3-5)
The Panthers continued their downslide on Thursday Night Football this week, losing 25-17 to the struggling Falcons at home. This was a close one for most of the game, with the two teams going back and forth in the first half before Atlanta took a 16-14 lead into the locker room. The visitors extended their lead to 19-14 with 6:22 left in the third quarter before a Joey Slye field goal got Carolina within two points heading into the fourth quarter. But the Panther offense couldn’t find any success in the final 15 minutes, with the Falcons getting the only points on their way to a 25-17 victory. Time of possession turned out to be a big issue for Carolina, as it held the ball for only 23:30 compared to Atlanta’s 36:30.
Teddy Bridgewater was unspectacular in the game, throwing for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 15-of-23 passing. He did run for 30 yards on five carries, though, teaming with Mike Davis (13 carries, 66 yards) to try to maintain some sort of rushing attack as Christian McCaffrey remained sidelined. Rookie Jeremy Chinn had a good day for the Panthers, leading the team in tackles with 10 (six solo), a pass defended, a quarterback hit and even a 28-yard run on offense. Donte Jackson came up with an interception of Matt Ryan, but the Panthers were ultimately outgained 401-304.
Up Next: at Kansas City Chiefs (7-1)
Atlanta Falcons (2-6)
The Falcons won for the second time in the last three games last Thursday night, beating the Panthers 25-17 on the road. It wasn’t pretty early on for Atlanta, as Carolina took a 14-6 lead early in the second quarter. However, the Falcons allowed just three points the rest of the way and did enough on offense to come away with the win. Younghoe Koo was a key part of the win, as he kicked field goals from 20, 37, 36 and 29 yards out. Matt Ryan and Todd Gurley both ran for touchdowns while the defense continued to hold things down. By the end, Atlanta had only given up 17 points and 304 yards while holding Carolina to a 2-for-10 mark on third downs. The Falcons weren’t exactly explosive on offense, but they did enough to get to 2-6 on the year and come a game closer to getting out of the NFC South basement.
Ryan’s 13-yard touchdown run was his only score of the game, as he was just 21-of-30 for 281 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. Julio Jones had a big night, catching seven passes for 137 yards. But it was the Falcons’ defense that made the difference. Deion Jones, Isaiah Oliver and Dante Fowler Jr. all came up with sacks, Blidi Wreh-Wilson picked off Teddy Bridgewater and the defense as a whole totaled 6.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback hits. Koo was perhaps the team’s MVP on the night, though, as he made all four of his field goals and, despite missing one of his two PAT attempts, totaling 13 of Atlanta’s 25 points.
Up Next: vs. Denver Broncos (3-4)