The New Orleans Saints appeared to be on the verge of a possible lopsided victory in their season finale, with a game-opening touchdown drive and then a forced punt by the defense. But the good times got no better than that in the Saints' 10-7 loss to Carolina on Sunday in the Caesars Superdome, with the Saints finishing 7-10 after having their three-game winning streak snapped.
Still, several players managed to produce standout performances in the loss for New Orleans.
OFFENSE: The easy choice would have been rookie receiver Chris Olave (five catches for 60 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown). But his second-quarter lost fumble possibly took points off the board for New Orleans, which might have taken a 10-0 lead with a field goal. Still, the rookie surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in his first season and became only the third rookie in franchise history to do so, joining Marques Colston and Michael Thomas. But running back Alvin Kamara did the heavy lifting for an offense that, at times, looked as if it was carrying a piano. Kamara rushed for 107 yards on 23 carries and came within a tackle of breaking off a couple of long runs.
DEFENSE: Defensive tackle David Onyemata played one of his most disruptive games of the season, with a sack, a tackle for loss, a quarterback hit, three tackles and numerous other times when he was after the quarterback or forcing an adjustment in the backfield. But the two safeties, Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen, each came up with an interception and both times, put the offense in position to score. New Orleans came up empty offensively on both of the extra possessions, but Mathieu and Sorenson both robbed the Panthers of scoring opportunities (Mathieu's pick came at the 2-yard line). Mathieu finished with a pass defensed and eight tackles, and Sorenson had a pass defensed and four tackles.
SPECIAL TEAMS: If J.T. Gray had been healthy all season, he'd have been a Pro Bowler or All-Pro again. His ability to tackle on special teams is phenomenal, never more evident than when he tracked Panthers running back Raheem Blackshear on the second half kickoff. Gray torpedoed in from the left side and walloped Blackshear after an 18-yard return. He also recorded a sack on defense, his second of the season.
Check out the game action from the New Orleans Saints win against the Carolina Panthers in Week 18 of the 2022 NFL season.