Back in the summer, New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan made headlines by taking a shot at the Buccaneers, saying they had added a lot of talent just to compete for second place in the NFC South. Well, it’s only been three weeks and there’s a long way to go, but Jordan may have been a little premature with that assessment. Because the Bucs, as of now, lead the division. And while no one should be celebrating a title just yet, you know this group is intent on at least hanging around the top and competing. The Saints winning it for the fourth straight year isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Tampa Bay, with a 28-10 road win in Denver on Sunday, improved to 2-1 on the year. It got help elsewhere to take care of New Orleans, which has the tiebreaker right now thanks to its Week 1 win over Bruce Arians’ team.
It’s Wednesday, which means it’s time to recap the weekend that was in the NFC South. Let’s see how the Saints’ loss unfolded, as well as how the other two teams fared.
New Orleans Saints (1-2)
Following their Monday Night Football loss to Las Vegas in Week 2, the Saints returned home for a Sunday Night Football matchup with the undefeated Green Bay Packers. It was a back-and-forth affair for much of the night, with the Packers taking a 13-7 lead in the second quarter. But just before halftime, the Saints went on a 10-0 run to take a 17-13 lead into the locker room. The third quarter then saw Green Bay take a couple of leads only for New Orleans to come right back and tie things up. Heading into the fourth, it was a 27-27 game. But from there, the visitors went on a run that would win the game. Mason Crosby’s 49-yard field goal made it 30-27 before a short touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Robert Tonyan with two minutes left made it 37-27. A late Wil Lutz field goal made it 37-30, but the Packers held on to send the Saints to their second straight loss.
Drew Brees had a nice rebound game for the Saints, completing 29 of his 36 passes for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Alvin Kamara continued his impressive start to the season, running for 58 yards on six carries while adding 13 catches for 139 yards and two receiving scores. It was a pretty even game overall, with the Saints slightly outgaining the Packers, 397-369, while averaging 6.8 yards per play to Green Bay’s 6.3. But penalties were once again a major issue for New Orleans, making a significant difference. Sean Payton’s team was flagged eight times for 83 yards in the game, less than a week after totaling 129 penalty yards.
Up Next: at Detroit Lions (1-2)
Carolina Panthers (1-2)
The Panthers picked up the first win of the Matt Rhule era on Sunday, earning a 21-16 road win over the Los Angeles Chargers. It wasn’t the prettiest of games for either team, but the leg of Joey Slye made the difference for Carolina. Five field goals from Slye and a Teddy Bridgewater touchdown pass accounted for the team’s 21 points, while its defense did just enough to earn the victory. Los Angeles put up 436 yards of offense and ran 74 plays to Carolina’s 302 and 51, respectively. It was a game that included 330 passing yards for rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, so how exactly did the Chargers manage to lose? The turnover battle. The Panthers’ defense forced four, while the offense played a clean game. That’ll do the trick.
Bridgewater was efficient, if unspectacular. He completed 22 of his 28 passes for 235 yards and a touchdown, having to run the offense without the extremely dangerous Christian McCaffrey, who is sidelined with an injury. Mike Davis had to step up in his absence, and he did an admirable job. He ran for 46 yards on 13 carries, averaging 3.5 yards per carry, while also playing a role in the passing game, catching a team-high eight passes for 45 yards. Tahir Whitehead, Shaq Thompson and Efe Obada each recovered fumbles, with Donte Jackson coming up with an interception to complete a four-turnover day for the Carolina defense.
Up Next: vs. Arizona Cardinals (2-1)
Atlanta Falcons (0-3)
The Atlanta Falcons are a true mess. That’s all there is to it. As if blowing a 28-3 lead in the Super Bowl a few years ago wasn’t enough, they went and collapsed against the Cowboys at home last week, blowing a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter to lose 40-39. But that surely couldn’t happen again in Week 3, right? Wrong. Atlanta controlled much of the game, taking advantage of a sputtering Mitch Trubisky-led offense on the way to a nice lead. But after Nick Foles relieved Trubisky, things went south for the Falcons. Despite leading 26-10 in the fourth quarter, they lost 30-26. Foles threw three fourth-quarter touchdowns and Tashaun Gipson Sr. sealed the victory late by intercepting Matt Ryan. The loss sent Atlanta to 0-3, and Dan Quinn’s seat just keeps getting hotter and hotter.
The Falcons offense wasn’t as strong in Week 3 as it had been in the first two games of the season. Against the Bears, it put up 371 yards, but finished just 2-of-4 in the red zone and failed to control possession. Chicago had the ball for 34:50 to Atlanta’s 25:10. Ryan completed just 19 of his 38 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown, with the late interception thwarting any hopes of a comeback. Todd Gurley ran for 80 yards and a score on 14 carries and Calvin Ridley caught five passes for 110 yards, but the Falcons did miss Julio Jones being out wide.
Up Next: at Green Bay Packers (3-0) — Monday Night Football