Saints vs. Panthers: New Orleans Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 17

Jonathan Peralta@itsjperaltaContributor IIIDecember 31, 2012

Saints vs. Panthers: New Orleans Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 17

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    The 2012 season for the New Orleans Saints was marred by distractions and frustration, and it was no different in their final game of the year.

    In their last game of the season, which was full of mistakes, the Saints lost to the Carolina Panthers, 44-38. It was a disappointing way to end the season, giving New Orleans a final record of 7-9.

    Of course, the season had its ups and downs; Drew Brees broke more records, becoming the first quarterback to surpass 5,000 yards three times as well as the first player to throw 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons.

    But with those ups came a low, something that paved the way for their disastrous season. The Saints defense gave up 530 yards against the Panthers, breaking the record for most yards allowed in a season—not really something that they want to be remembered for. 

    Although the Saints finished on a bad note, there is still a lot to look forward to for next season. The biggest reason? Head coach Sean Payton will be with the Saints for the next five years.

    For the final time in the 2012 season, let's take a look at some New Orleans Saints winners and losers from Week 17.

Winner: Drew Brees

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    Drew Brees had another big game trying to keep his team in the game. He also broke more records, surpassing 5,000 passing yards for the third time in his career and throwing over 40 touchdown passes in consecutive seasons.

    So in a day full of bad notes, Brees was the highlight. Brees threw for 396 yards and four touchdowns, completing 29 of 43 passes. As always, because of No. 9, the Saints were in the game and still had a chance.

Loser: Saints Run Defense

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    The entire defensive unit was atrocious, so singling out one or two players just wouldn't make any sense.

    Let's just look at what the defense was horrible at.

    These guys really couldn't stop a nosebleed. The Saints run defense was gashed by DeAngelo Williams for 210 yards on 21 carries, including touchdown runs of 12 yards and 54 yards. One big play, a 65-yard run, also set up a one-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert.

    Not being able to stop the run really hurt the Saints, who, at one point, had a double-digit lead. The success of the run set up some back-breaking big plays against the Saints secondary.

Winner: Lance Moore

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    This season, Lance Moore proved to be a valuable weapon and a legitimate threat for Brees and the Saints. He had over 1,000 receiving yards for the first time in his career, finishing with 1,041 yards.

    Moore had a big game against the Panthers, scorching their secondary with four receptions for 121 yards, his longest reception going for 51 yards. Although he only caught four balls, they were for big plays, giving the Saints nice field position at times.

Loser: Saints Defense

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    The Saints defense was gashed by the Panthers run game and allowed Cam Newton to make some key plays and keep drives going. No, Newton did not have a monster game against the Saints statistically, but the Saints did allow him to make some big throws on third downs.

    The Saints defense wasn't able to get off the field, allowing the Panthers to convert on 10-of-16 third downs. In this game, the Saints also forgot how to tackle, as missed tackles allowed for more yards after the catch and some big plays.

Winner: Jimmy Graham

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    Aside from more drops from the tight end, which is something that has plagued him throughout the season, Jimmy Graham did have a nice game.

    He finished the game with nine receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. Graham made some big plays, including a 19-yard touchdown grab. The Panthers were having trouble containing the dynamic tight end.

    Graham had a nice season and will always be a threat, but he has to improve on those drops for next season.