In a sense, the New Orleans Saints' season finale Sunday at the Caesars Superdome reflected the 2022 season.
Opportunity was available and plentiful, but the Saints (7-10) simply could not convert it into victory in a 10-7 loss to Carolina that ended New Orleans' three-game winning streak.
OFFENSE: One of the team's bleakest offensive showings of the season came Sunday. After a promising start on the opening drive, with the Saints scoring a touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Andy Dalton to Chris Olave, it bottomed out. New Orleans was 4 for 13 on third down (1 for 7 in the second half), 0 for 1 on fourth down and totaled 304 yards, 70 in the second half. Despite being handed two turnovers, the Saints were unable to convert either into points despite the favorable field position it was given. A crucial fumble by Olave possibly prevented a field goal, but that wasn't a given Sunday because Wil Lutz missed one field goal attempt and had a second one blocked. Dalton (15 for 25 for 171 yards) got away with a couple of passes that could have been intercepted, and his precision wasn't as sharp as 15-for-25 suggests. If there was a high point, the run game produced 143 yards on 32 carries, including 107 yards on 23 carries by Alvin Kamara. But overall, no way to sugarcoat it – not a good day by any stretch.
DEFENSE: If the defense's job is to keep the opponent off the scoreboard, it's hard to not deem Sunday a success. Ten points allowed, and two turnovers forced – interceptions by safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen – should have been sufficient to win. New Orleans was gashed on the ground – 171 yards allowed on 41 carries – by a team that couldn't pass, and didn't want to try. Not being able to slow down that phase of the game was disappointing. But the work submitted by the pass defense was phenomenal. Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold completed 5 of 15 passes for 43 yards, was sacked twice and intercepted twice. The Panthers had minus-4 net passing yards in the first half. It'll be difficult to find times in Saints history where opponents have been so abysmal in the passing game, and still managed to win. New Orleans didn't get off the field well on third down – the Panthers converted 8 of 14 times – but, still, the defense did enough good work to counter that. The unit deserved a better result on the scoreboard.
SPECIAL TEAMS: It just wasn't Lutz's year, and Sunday was a good example of that. He missed a 44-yard field goal attempt wide left in the second quarter, which would have given the Saints a 10-0 lead. And his 55-yard attempt with 84 seconds left, which would have given the Saints a 10-7 lead, was blocked. Lutz finished the season 23 of 31 on field goal attempts, and that's not acceptable for a kicker of his caliber.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 18 of the 2022 NFL season.