The Big Headline
The Panthers 2019 season came to a close on Sunday after a 42-10 loss at the hands of the Saints.
Carolina fell behind early and the Panthers were unable to overcome their own turnovers and the Saints high-powered offense, resulting in the eighth-straight loss for Carolina.
One of the few bright spots in Sunday's game was running back Christian McCaffrey, who capped his MVP-caliber season by becoming just the third player in league history to post 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
Late in the third quarter, McCaffrey hauled in a pass from quarterback Kyle Allen and dashed 17 yards before being brought down. That catch gave McCaffrey exactly what he needed to hit 1,000 receiving yards on the dot.
McCaffrey totaled seven catches for 72 yards against the Saints, pushing him over the thousand-yard mark through the air. CMC finished the year with 1,361 rushing yards, 1,005 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. McCaffrey's 2,392 scrimmage yards rank third-most in a single season in NFL history, and his 116 receptions are the most by a running back in league history.
The Panthers' season may be over, but McCaffrey still has one more game on his schedule. After a record-breaking season like CMC put together this year, it's only fitting he'll finish it off in Orlando at the Pro Bowl.
A first quarter to forget
The first quarter wasn't kind to the Panthers.
After 15 minutes, the Saints were hitting on all cylinders. The Panthers, not so much.
The Saints moved the ball at will, racking up 141 total net yards and 12 first downs on their way to a 14-0 lead, while the Panthers struggled to get anything going on offense.
Rookie quarterback Will Grier didn't have much time to work with in the pocket, leading to a few nasty hits and missed throws. The Panthers were only able to muster 14 total net yards for the entire quarter, with three-and-outs on each of their three possessions.
The Panthers had already dug themselves into a deep hole early on Sunday, and things didn't get much better in the following three quarters.
Grier goes down
Grier didn't get much of a chance to get things back on track.
On back-to-back drives to start the second quarter, the Panthers turned the ball over – once on a botched exchange between Grier and McCaffrey, and then on an interception returned for a touchdown.
Then, following the pick, Grier spun away from two would-be tacklers in the backfield, only to be met by Saints defensive end Cam Jordan for a seven-yard loss. The hit marked the Saints first sack of the game, but their third hit on Grier, and the one that would knock him out of the game with a foot injury.
Just a week after making his NFL debut, Grier and the Panthers had hoped his second start would provide an opportunity for growth. Instead, the third-round pick finished the day 1-for-8 for four yards and a pick six.
Sunday wasn't exactly the kind of evaluation anyone was hoping for in the season finale.
Kyle Allen filled in for Grier, going 25-of-41 for 295 yards and an interception in his return to action.
Saints' offensive domination
The Panthers D couldn't find a way to stop the Saints offense until it was too late on Sunday.
The Saints exploded to 35 first half points and 20 first downs, as they marched up and down the field against the Panthers. Saints running back Alvin Kamara punched in two early rushing touchdowns, marking the 31st rushing touchdown the Panthers have allowed this year – the second-most in a single season in league history.
Through the air, there wasn't much slowing down quarterback Drew Brees, who completed 19-of-30 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns before exiting the game in the third quarter.
View photos from Week 17 as Carolina hosts New Orleans.