NEW ORLEANS — After too many games this season, players on the Panthers defense have been asked about the slim margin of error they're working with this year, and how they handle the strain.
Sunday, it was evident on veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson's face, even behind the mask he was wearing because of the league's COVID protocols.
"Hell yeah, I'm frustrated," Thompson said. "Busting my ass, we're all busting our ass, fighting to win. And not to have the outcome, . . . that [expletive] is frustrating. But each and every day, we're going to in there tomorrow, we're going to get the corrections, and we're going to attack next week, which is Tampa. And it is what it is.
"Right now we're what, 5-11? Right. It is what it is. We're going to go out there and fight, and show these fans, and ourselves that we're going to go out and keep competing, despite our record. But yeah, that's to that. We're just frustrated."
The Panthers did a reasonable job limiting the Saints to 73 rushing yards, with 77 of those coming in the second half (it was minus-4 in the first half).
But the Panthers didn't create any turnovers, and that's the kind of thing they need when the offense isn't producing. They had a shot at one, with nickel Myles Hartsfield juggling a near-interception in the second half.
— The Panthers weren't well-stocked on defense anyway, with recent injuries and a COVID outbreak.
But two of the players who were dressed weren't really available.
Head coach Matt Rhule said after the game that cornerback CJ Henderson and safety Juston Burris were available for emergency duty only.
Henderson popped up on the injury report Friday with knee and shoulder issues, and Rhule said after Henderson worked out before the game, they realized he wasn't 100 percent. Burris has been dealing with a groin injury.
With three corners on injured reserve and veteran Stephon Gilmore inactive because of a groin injury, the Panthers were extremely short. They used rookie Keith Taylor Jr. and Rashaan Melvin for most of the game at corner, and Kenny Robinson took most of Burris' work at safety.
— Running back Chuba Hubbard scored a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, which was his longest scoring run of the year. His five rushing touchdowns are the most for a Panthers rookie running back since Jonathan Stewart scored 10 in 2008.
Hubbard finished with 55 yards on 17 carries, and added three catches for 13 yards.
View in-game photos from the Superdome during Carolina's Week 17 game at New Orleans.