NFC South: 2012 Week 14 coverage

Wrap-up: Giants 52, Saints 27

December, 9, 2012

Thoughts on the New Orleans Saints’ 52-27 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday at MetLife Stadium:

What it means: That dream scenario of the Saints making the playoffs after an 0-4 start and all that off-field turmoil probably can be forgotten. The Saints now are 5-8 and only a game ahead of the last-place Carolina Panthers in the NFC South standings.

Point of no return: The Saints had all sorts of problems with kickoff coverage. They allowed a 97-yard return for a touchdown by David Wilson, and Jerrel Jernigan had another return for 60 yards. A lot of people like to talk about how bad New Orleans’ defense is, but that unit wasn’t the real culprit against the Giants. New York’s special teams and a defense that picked off Drew Brees twice and forced two fumbles repeatedly gave the Giants good field position.

One thing that’s obvious: The Saints need a speed receiver. Aside from Joe Morgan, who still is being worked into the offense, the wide receivers weren’t getting any separation against the Giants. That forced Brees to lock in on tight end Jimmy Graham way too often. Both of Brees’ interceptions came on throws for Graham -- one went off the tight end’s hands, and the other was underthrown against good coverage.

What’s next: The Saints host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

Wrap-up: Eagles 23, Buccaneers 21

December, 9, 2012
Thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 23-21 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium:

What it means: This one was particularly painful for the Buccaneers in terms of how they lost and what it means. They had a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, but ended up losing on the last play of the game to one of the NFL’s worst teams. But it goes much deeper than that. The Bucs now are on a three-game losing streak, they’re 6-7 and their playoff hopes could be fading away.

Defensive collapse: The pass defense has been a problem all season, and that was only accentuated in this one. Philadelphia rookie quarterback Nick Foles threw for 381 yards and led two touchdown drives in the final 3:26.

Super letdown: The Buccaneers used this day to celebrate an early 10-year anniversary of their Super Bowl championship. Scores of players and coaches from that squad returned and the Bucs had a rare day in which their game was allowed to be shown on local television. But the current Bucs didn’t play anything close to championship football. The Buccaneers have made big strides this year, but they’re not going to consistently sell out their stadium the way they did in their glory years unless they start winning games like this.

What’s next: The Buccaneers play at New Orleans next Sunday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Thoughts on the Carolina Panthers’ 30-20 victory against the Atlanta Falcons at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday:

What it means: Maybe players from other teams and media members have been right when they’ve said the Falcons aren’t as good as their record suggests. The Falcons played perhaps their worst game of the season. Carolina’s offense controlled the ball throughout the first half, and Atlanta’s offense didn’t do much of anything until the second half. The Falcons now are 11-2, and they sure didn’t look like a team that’s capable of doing much of anything in the postseason. The win was significant for Carolina, a team that had squandered leads multiple times this season. But the Panthers (4-9) hung on this time. This win also might have helped coach Ron Rivera’s chances of keeping his job. Owner Jerry Richardson has told Rivera he needs to finish on an upswing to keep it. A solid victory against a division rival has to score Rivera some points.

Play of the day: If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you catch the replay of Cam Newton's 72-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It reminds you Newton is one of the best athletes on the planet. The touchdown also gave Carolina a 23-0 lead, the kind of lead that even the Panthers couldn’t squander.

Play of the day II: Carolina linebacker Thomas Davis, who is one of the league’s great comeback stories, came up with a huge interception to help seal the victory. On a fourth-and-8 at Carolina’s 48-yard line, Atlanta tried to keep a drive alive. But Davis stepped in and intercepted a Matt Ryan pass that was intended for Roddy White.

Lucky day: The Panthers had lost every coin toss this season (12 at the start of games and one in overtime) coming into the day. But that streak finally came to an end Sunday.

What’s next: The Falcons host the New York Giants next Sunday. The Panthers play at San Diego next Sunday.