The New Orleans Saints lost yet another road game Sunday afternoon — this time to the Carolina Panthers.
The Saints had an opportunity to win their division, and secure a first-round bye, but blew it in Charlotte in a sloppy 17-13 loss to the Panthers.
In an eerie echo of their loss to New England in week six, the Saints' vaunted offense once again couldn’t manage to put the game away with a first down when it counted. This time it was with just under two minutes to play, and holding on to a tenuous three-point lead.
The Saints turned the ball over to Carolina, who immediately marched 65 yards down the field in 32 seconds with no timeouts for a touchdown.
It was an exemplary scoring drive during a game that was mostly a defensive battle — in which both teams struggled, at times in the pouring rain.
Sean Payton’s decision to shake up the offensive line didn’t help the effort, either. Drew Brees was sacked six times, the most he’s ever been sacked in a single game during his time in New Orleans. Number 9 was also picked off twice.
On the other side of the ball, defensive standout Kenny Vaccaro left the game with a lower leg injury. According to a Fox report it’s a broken ankle, but the team has not yet confirmed Vaccaro’s status.
On top of it all, the Saints could have secured a playoff spot with an Arizona loss last night... but the Cardinals beat the powerhouse Seattle Seahawks.
However, there’s one final game to play in the 2013 regular season: the Saints will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday — the game has been moved to 3:25 p.m., and is a must-win if New Orleans hopes to secure a wild-card playoff spot.