Panthers-Saints game will be in Superdome; McCaffrey’s help needed in red zone

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints will be hosting the Carolina Panthers on Sunday inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints released a statement Monday saying president Dennis Lauscha and team staff met with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell to talk about how to get fans safely back into the stadium for games this season. The meeting included epidemiologists and the mayor’s own medical advisers.

The team had started talking with LSU about playing games outside at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge as a way of getting fans into the stands.

The team noted in a statement that New Orleans’ COVID-19 positivity rates remain stable.

“The city currently has one of the lowest rates in the nation,” the Saints said. “We all agree that the priority is to make sure our city’s residents and our fans are safe and not to regress from the progress that has been made. We look forward to providing our fans more information shortly.”

The Saints (3-2) have played three of eight scheduled regular-season home games in the Superdome with no ticketed fans in attendance. The few hundred in the stands consisted primarily of privately invited family members of players, coaches or staff.

The Saints had asked Cantrell to allow ticketed fans to occupy about 25% of the Superdome’s 73,000 seats for last week’s Monday night game but that request was denied.

Panthers could use McCaffrey’s help when they’re in the red zone

The Panthers really miss Christian McCaffrey in the red zone.

While Mike Davis has been a solid fill-in for McCaffrey and helped the team to three wins, the reality is if the Panthers want to make a run at the NFC South championship they’ll need their dynamic running back on the field — and soon.

McCaffrey has missed the last four games with a high ankle sprain and should be nearing the end of his recovery period. It is generally considered a four-to-six week injury, although coach Matt Rhule wouldn’t say if the 2019 All-Pro running back will play Sunday at New Orleans.

Carolina is  28th in the league in the red-zone offense,  converting 47.8% of its trips into touchdowns. To put that number in perspective, the Seahawks lead the NFL in red-zone offense, scoring touchdowns 88.9% of the time. The Panthers were 1 of 3 in the red zone in a 23-16 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

“You’re not going to win games if you don’t punch drives in the red zone in for touchdowns and they’re always field goals,” Rhule said.

It didn’t help that wide receiver Curtis Samuel (knee) also missed Sunday’s game.

McCaffrey is a huge help in that end of the field because he’s so shifty and can make tacklers miss, has a sense for the end zone and commands so much attention that he frees up things for his teammates.

The offensive line also didn’t play well against the Bears. Chicago sacked Teddy Bridgewater four times and had six quarterback hurries, forcing the QB to scramble eight times on non-designed running plays and forced two interceptions. The run blocking wasn’t good either.

game will be    in Superdome