Early Lead Slips Away as Panthers Fall to Saints 30-20

The Panthers got their season back on track last week in Arizona, and entered New Orleans with the confidence of an 8-game winning streak over the Saints at the SuperDome. The game started out great for the Panthers, but by the end of the day, New Orleans dream season was too much to overcome in a Saints 30-20 win.

Turnovers killed the Panthers, as they fumbled five times, losing three of them. Two came in the fourth quarter as they were trying to go ahead or rally.

Carolina scored 14 points in the first 8 minutes and 7 seconds, but then the Saints defense finally started shutting the door on DeAngelo Wiliams and the Panthers run game, and the game shifted. Williams outran the Siants for a 66-yard score one minute in the game, then after a turnover gave Carolina the ball deep in Saints territory, they scored again on Williams 7-yard run to make it 14-0.

The Saints, like two weeks ago vs the Dolphins on the road, rallied. John Carney kicked two second quarter field goals in between one Panthers field goal to make it 17-6. The Saints got right back in it early in the third quarter when after a 63-yard catch and run by Devery Henderson, Pierre Thomas went over from 10 yards out to make it 17-13.

After another Panthers field goal made it 20-13, things got back to even as Brees hit Robert Meachem with a 54-yard score. On their next possession, the Saints started at their 2 and drove 76 yards in 13 plays to go ahead 23-20 on John Carney’s 40-yard field goal with 4:36 left.

Will Smith, who had two sacks, stripped Panthers QB Jake Delhomme on fourth down, and Hargrove recovered to end Carolina’s next series. Four plays later, Saints rookie Malcolm Jenkins dove to stop Thomas Morstead’s punt from going into the end zone, setting up a fumble recovery by Hargrove of Williams, where he took it a yard for a score to end the scoring at 30-20.

“It’s kind of rough to lose this one,” Williams said. “This one right here was a tough one, especially in the manner in how we lost. The defense got us the ball back (with 2:17 left in the game) and I commit a turnover. That’s how games are won and lost and whoever plays throughout the fourth quarter and whoever makes the least amount of mistakes. I think they made their plays when it counted and we didn’t.”

Brees went 24-for-35 for 330 yards with a TD and a pick. Meachem had five grabs for 98 yards. The Saints outscored the Panthers 24-3 in the second half, the difference in the game.

“It’s real frustrating to give up those big plays,” cornerback Chris Gamble said. “They made more big plays than we did. All we can do is bounce back and get ready for Atlanta. I felt like we played a great game but we gave them all we could.”

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