NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Saints chose rest over records on Sunday.
Having already locked up home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, head coach Sean Payton opted to rest several Saints starters for the regular-season finale against the rival Carolina Panthers.
Those stars who were inactive for the game were quarterback Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara, offensive tackles Terron Armstead and Jerome Bushrod, guard Larry Warford and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr.
Without those starters, the Saints (13-3) were routed by the Panthers 33-14, which snapped a four-game winning streak in the series.
Those stars resting also met that a few franchise records would not be broken.
A victory would have given the Saints their first 14-win regular season and would have produced back-to-back seven-win seasons at home for the first time in franchise history.
Brees’ NFL-record of consecutive seasons with at least 4,000 yards passing also came to an end as he remained stuck at 3,992. Brees had accomplished the feat the previous 12 seasons. Kamara, meanwhile, remains tied with Dalton Hilliard for most total touchdowns in a single season with 18.
Wide receiver Michael Thomas did rewrite the record books on Sunday as he hauled in five receptions for 29 yards. That was good enough for the Pro Bowler to break Joe Horn’s single-season record for 1,399 yards set in 2004.
Horn and members of his family were on hand for the game and the former Saints star also greeted fans and signed autographs at the Saints Hall of Fame prior to the game.
The turnover that was not
With 4:15 left in the first quarter and trailing 7-0, Saints linebacker A.J. Klein appeared to have made a game-changing play. The former Carolina linebacker (2013-16) blitzed and promptly thumped Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen for a nine-yard loss while also stripping him of the football. The apparent fumble was recovered by David Onyemata and the Saints had the ball inside the red zone.
The replay official overturned the turnover, stating that Allen was making a passing motion with his arm, thus making the lost fumble an incompletion.
Five plays later, running back Cameron Artis-Payne scored from 15 yards out to give the Panthers a two-touchdown lead.
Washington eclipses 100
Dwayne Washington began the regular season being cut but ended it with a career performance.
Washington was drafted in the seventh round off the 2016 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions out of Washington (not a typo). He saw limited action in his two seasons with the Lions and was cut by the team in September. The Saints quickly scooped him up and added him to the practice squad.
As the team’s third-string running back, Washington had 46 yards on just 16 carries entering Sunday’s game. Washington had a career day Sunday, rushing for 108 yards on just 11 carries, including a long of 28 yards.
A pair of former LSU star defensive backs wrapped up their first seasons with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
Rookie cornerback Donte Jackson led the Panthers with eight tackles and ended the season with 65 tackles and four interceptions.
Veteran safety Eric Reid, who wasn’t signed until late September, had five tackles in the win and ended the season with 66 tackles, one interception and one sack.
Harper gets booed
The Legend of the Game on Sunday was safety Roman Harper, who played nine seasons (2006-13, 2016) for the Saints. The two-time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl XLIV champion was warmly received until while being interviewed during a TV timeout he was asked about the upcoming national championship game. Harper, a University of Alabama grad, ended by saying “ROLL TIDE,” which quickly promoted boos from the crowd which likely included many die-hard LSU fans.