The dream of winning the NFC South mostly faded long ago for the Buccaneers, but they picked up a game in the standings on Sunday with a 26-14 win over the Vikings and some help along the way from the Eagles.
Tampa Bay didn’t play the most complete game on Sunday, but it made enough plays to hold off Minnesota and get to 8-5, keeping a hold on the NFC’s No. 6 seed. The rest of the schedule sets up nicely for Bruce Arians’ team, as it will face Atlanta (away), Detroit (away) and Atlanta (home) to close the season. There’s a real chance for the Bucs to run the table and finish 11-5, potentially setting themselves up with the No. 5 seed. But there’s plenty of football to be played before the seeding is finalized, that’s for sure.
Before we turn the page to Week 15, let’s have a look at what went down round the division in Week 14.
New Orleans Saints (10-3)
The Saints hit the road on Sunday and got upset by the Eagles in Philadelphia, losing 24-21 for their first defeat since Sept. 27. The New Orleans offense got off to a slow start, getting shut out in the first half before finally breaking onto the scoreboard with 7:55 left in the third quarter. By that point, the Saints had already fallen behind 17-0 and had a difficult climb back. They eventually got within 17-14, but a second Miles Sanders touchdown run widened the gap back to 10 with 6:22 to go. Taysom Hill did connect with Jared Cook for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:24 left, but the Eagles recovered the onside kick to seal the deal. That earned Jalen Hurts a win in his first NFL start, and it stopped the New Orleans winning streak at nine games.
Hill finished the game 28-of-38 for 291 yards and two touchdowns, but he also turned the ball over twice. Michael Thomas was the Saints’ leading receiver, catching eight passes on eight targets for 84 yards. Emmanuel Sanders caught New Orleans’ first touchdown and finished the day with 48 yards on three catches, while Cook caught the other score to go along with his three catches for 37 yards. Alvin Kamara ran for 50 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, plus he added 44 receiving yards on seven catches. Philadelphia outgained New Orleans 413-358, plus the latter dealt with penalty issues, getting flagged eight times for 52 yards (compared to the home team’s 27 penalty yards on six flags). Hurts, the rookie out of Oklahoma, fared well in his first career start, throwing for 167 yards and a touchdown while adding 106 yards on the ground.
Up Next: vs. Kansas City Chiefs (12-1)
Atlanta Falcons (4-9)
The Falcons’ struggles continued on Sunday as they lost 20-17 to the Chargers in Los Angeles. It was a back-and-forth affair early before Atlanta pulled ahead with a 17-10 lead 4:51 before halftime. The Chargers took control in the second half to win the game, first tying the game with 1:10 left in the third quarter before Michael Badgley connected on a 43-yard field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter to win it. It was another tough loss for Atlanta, who was officially eliminated from playoff contention with the loss. The Falcons were outgained 345-319 and turned the ball over three times in the loss, all of which were interceptions thrown by Matt Ryan.
Ryan completed 21 of his 32 passes in the game, but threw for just 224 yards and a touchdown while getting intercepted three times. Calvin Ridley had a big day, however, bringing in eight passes for 124 yards and a touchdown. Tyeler Davison had two tackles for loss to lead the Atlanta defense, while Blidi Wreh-Wilson intercepted Justin Herbert for the unit’s only turnover. Both teams were efficient on third down, with Atlanta going 9-of-12 and Los Angeles finishing 9-of-15. Red zone efficiency was about equal as well, with the Falcons going 1-for-3 and the Chargers going 2-for-4. Badgley’s field goal truly proved to be the difference in the end.
Up Next: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-5)
Carolina Panthers (4-9)
The Panthers inched one step closer to elimination from playoff contention on Sunday, losing 32-27 at home to the Broncos. Denver took a 13-7 lead into halftime before jumping out to a 25-10 advantage by the end of the third quarter. Carolina fought to get back in the game from there, with a Teddy Bridgewater touchdown run and a Joey Slye field goal getting it to 25-20. A 49-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to KJ Hamler with 3:54 left looked to have sealed it, but a Mike Davis touchdown run brought the Panthers back within five with 3:26 to play. One last Carolina drive went nowhere, sending the team to its ninth loss of the season despite outgaining Denver and winning the turnover battle.
Bridgewater finished the game 30-of-40 for 283 yards while rushing for 31 yards and a score on three carries. Davis found the end zone twice and carried the ball for 51 yards on 11 carries. Robby Anderson was the team’s leading receiver, going for 84 yards on eight catches. The Carolina defense struggled to contain Lock, who threw for four touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing. Efe Obada recovered a fumble for the Panther defense, while rookie Jeremy Chinn continued his strong season to the tune of eight tackles (two for loss) and a sack.
Up Next: at Green Bay Packers (10-3) — Saturday Night Football