New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton often speaks of “hidden yardage” that can occur during a game. One of those hidden yardage plays cost the Saints early in Sunday’s 33-14 loss to Carolina in the regular-season finale in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, and helped put the Saints in a scenario that they wouldn’t overcome.
Carolina converted its first two third-down attempts – both third-and-1 efforts – before the Saints were able to get the Panthers into a down and distance that was more favorable, third-and-8 with 3:33 left in the first quarter.
Trailing 7-0, it was an opportunity for the Saints defense to get the ball back to the offense, with Carolina initiating the play from its 36-yard line.
Quarterback Kyle Allen took the snap in shotgun formation and threw a deep pass down the right sideline intended for receiver Curtis Samuel, who’d gotten behind cornerback Eli Apple. Apple made up the ground while the pass attempt was in flight, but didn’t get his head turned around and made contact with Samuel.
The pass interference penalty was good for 39 yards (the Saints had 94 yards in penalties), the Panthers were awarded first down at the Saints’ 25-yard line and three plays later, Cameron Artis-Payne scored on a 15-yard run to give Carolina a 13-0 lead.
Carolina then scored on its next two possessions to take a 23-0 halftime lead before the Saints were able to get on the scoreboard with a couple of fourth-quarter touchdowns.