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New Orleans Saints clinch No. 2 seed in NFC playoffs, complete first-ever NFC South sweep with 33-7 win over Carolina Panthers; Chicago Bears up next in playoffs

Saints will play Chicago Bears in wild-card game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Game action photos from the New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers matchup on Jan. 3 in Week 17 of the 2020 NFL season.

The New Orleans Saints clinched the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a 33-7 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Jan. 3 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. The win makes the Saints the first NFC South team since division's formation in 2002 to finish 6-0 in divisional contests.

The Saints (12-4) needed a win Sunday, a Green Bay loss to Chicago, and a Seattle win over San Francisco to claim the No. 1 seed in the NFC and earn a first-round bye. Green Bay's 35-16 win over Chicago ended any chance of New Orleans receiving the bye. The Saints will play the Bears (8-8) in a wild-card game at 3:40 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. CBS will broadcast the game.

New Orleans went to battle with their top three running backs sitting at home because of Covid-19. New Orleans' star running back Alvin Kamara and backups Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington and fullback Michael Burton did not make the trip because Kamara tested positive Thursday for Covid-19 and his teammates and running backs coach Joel Thomas were ruled closed contacts and forced to sit out.

Ty Montgomery led the way for the Saints rushing attack, racking up 105 yards on 18 carries. Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill also contributed 41 yards and one score on the ground. Undrafted free agent Tony Jones Jr. , who was called up from the practice squad earlier in the week, notched three carries for 13 yards.

"I was proud of how we played tonight," Saints Coach Sean Payton said of his team's performance in his postgame press conference. "A lot of guys had to step into positions they hadn't played, and that was a good team win."

Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed 22-of-32 passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He connected with Emmanuel Sanders nine times for 63 yards and one score. Sanders finished the year with 61 receptions. Brees earned his 150th career win (regular season and postseason combined) as a Saint.

"Obviously, we've endured a lot this season with injuries and having various guys down at key positions throughout," Brees said in his postgame press conference. "Obviously, we were dealt kind of a crazy hand with the running back situation going into this game. But it says so much about our team and the way that we have been able to respond. And also, I think we've been able to see a lot out of young players that now are playing more pivotal roles for us."

New Orleans tallied five interceptions, the sixth time this season with two or more interceptions, tying the Miami Dolphins for most in the NFL.

Malcolm Jenkins and Grant Haley, who saw his first action of the season, each intercepted former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in the end zone.

Defensive end Trey Hendrickson returned to action after missing last week due to injury. Hendrickson recorded one sack, giving him 13.5 quarterback takedowns on the season.

The Week 17 win gives the franchise three consecutive seasons of at least 12 victories for the first time in franchise history. The Saints join the Kansas City Chiefs as the only two clubs to finish the regular season with 12 wins in each of the last three seasons.

The Panthers end their season with a 5-11 record.

For complete Saints-Panthers stats click here.

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