Sports Outside the Beltway

Ugly finish- Carolina beats New Orleans 23-10

The Saints go into the playoffs without any momentum. From AP-

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton decided the risk of injury outweighed heading into the playoffs on a positive note.Car-NOR

The backups responded with an ugly performance that sends the No. 1 seed in the NFC to the postseason on a three-game losing streak.

Jonathan Stewart rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown and the Carolina Panthers finished their disappointing season with a 23-10 win over the lifeless Saints on Sunday.

Drew Brees came out for the coin toss and never saw the field again, allowing him to break the NFL record for completion percentage in a season. Backup Mark Brunell had few options with many other starters resting, too, and New Orleans (13-3) looked nothing like the team that less than a month ago was flirting with a perfect season.

It allowed the Panthers (8-8) to finish on a three-game winning streak amid questions about the future of coach John Fox, defensive end Julius Peppers and quarterback Jake Delhomme.

By getting back to .500, I think the Panthers preserved Fox’s job.

As for the Saints, I never thought they were great team even when they reached 13-0. The basis for my opinion was mostly came from their early season encounter with the Miami Dolphins. Their defense looked suspect to me. I know Drew Brees didn’t play in today’s game, and other starters were rested. Still I can’t pick New Orleans to make it to the Super Bowl. Arizona I think is the one to beat.

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