The Carolina Panthers wrapped up the 2020 regular season Sunday afternoon with on the wrong side of a 33-7 blowout against the short-handed New Orleans Saints.
Carolina (5-11) and New Orleans (12-4) were tied after the first quarter after trading touchdowns, but the turnover-prone Panthers never scored again. Six of Carolina’s next seven possessions either resulted in an interception or a turnover on downs.
Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was 13-of-23 for 176 yards and two interceptions — both of which came in the end zone.
The Panthers turned to backup QB P.J. Walker, who completed 5-of-14 passes for 95 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions.
Defensively, Carolina couldn’t slow down New Orleans’ offense despite the fact the Saints were without all of their normal running backs — including star Alvin Kamara, who tested positive for COVID-19 after scoring six touchdowns on Christmas Day. The Saints totaled 156 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries Sunday, led by Ty Montgomery, who ran for 105 yards on 18 carries after totaling -4 yards on one carry this year coming into the game.
Saints QB Drew Brees, who will turn 42 on Jan. 15, completed 22-of-32 passes for 201 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Carolina, playing without top pass rusher Brian Burns, sacked Brees twice. With the regular season over, the Panthers will focus on a new general manager to replace Marty Hurney. Several notable Panthers are under expiring contracts — including receiver Curtis Samuel, offensive tackles Russell Okung and Taylor Moton, defensive end Efe Obada and running back Mike Davis. Samuel has established his value after catching 77 passes, helping out in the run game and totaling over 1,000 yards from scrimmage while scoring five touchdowns this season.
Moton is due for a big contract. A three-year starter, Moton had the highest grade of any right tackle in the NFL as of December 8, 2020 by Pro Football Focus. PFF reported Moton “neutralized” Chargers Pro Bowl defensive end Nick Bosa in Week 3 and “snuffed out” Saints Pro Bowl defensive end Cameron Jordan in Week 7. Obada, who played in all 16 games with one start, ranked second on the team in sacks (5.5) and had 15 QB hits in 2020.
Carolina will have the No. 8 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 draft kicks off April 29. Among the possibilities — Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.
The Panthers have drafted in the top 10 seven times in their history, dating back to 1995, and six of them have made the Pro Bowl at least once: QB Kerry Collins in 1995 (one Pro Bowl), DE Julius Peppers (9 Pro Bowls), OT Jordan Gross (3 Pro Bowls), QB Cam Newton (3 Pro Bowls), LB Luke Kuechley (7 Pro Bowls) and RB Christian McCaffrey (2 Pro Bowls).
The Panthers’ only top-10 draft pick who never made a Pro Bowl was former Michigan running back Tshimanga Biakabutuka, who played for the team from 1996 through 2001.