Saints hold on for divisional win over Panthers

Saints hold on for divisional win over Panthers
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Carolina Panthers in New Orleans, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. It was Brees' 7,000 career completion. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) (Source: Butch Dill)

NEW ORLEANS (WAFB) - The New Orleans Saints picked up a huge divisional win against the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, Oct. 25.

The Saints (4-2) held on for a 27-24 victory over the Panthers (3-4).

Drew Brees was 29-of-36 for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He didn’t throw any interceptions but he did fumble once and the Panthers recovered. He is the first quarterback in NFL history to complete 7,000 passes. He also scored a rushing touchdown with one of his patented leaps and extending the ball across the goal line.

His main targets were Alvin Kamara and Marquez Callaway, who each had eight catches. Callaway, who made that 7,000th reception from Brees, had 75 yards. Kamara had 65 receiving yards. He was also the team’s leading rusher with 14 carries for 83 yards. The Brees touchdown passes went to Jared Cook and Deonte Harris. Latavius Murray had 11 carries for 47 yards. The Saints never punted in the game. They converted their first eight third downs and were 12-of-14 on third down for the game.

The Saints defense only sacked former Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater once but it was possibly the biggest tackle of the game. The Saints held the 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter on a third-and-11 when Marcus Davenport got to Bridgewater for an 8-yard loss just before the 2:00 warning. The play put the Panthers in fourth-and-19, forcing a 65-yard field goal. Kicker Joey Slye missed, what would have been the longest ever in the NFL, just short and the Saints were able to run out the clock.

Bridgewater was 23-of-28 for 254 yards and two touchdowns. He also avoided getting picked off.

The Saints got the ball first and the offense moved down the field quite easily with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up nearly 8:30 on the clock. It was capped off with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Cook. Brees was 6-of-6 on the opening drive and started out the game with nine straight completions, a season-high for him.

The Panthers got on the board with a 43-yard field goal from Slye to make it 7-3 with 1:54 remaining in the first quarter.

Later, Brees scored from a yard out to extend the lead to 14-3. It would be the Saints’ largest lead of the game. The touchdown was a great finish to a 9-play, 78-yard drive in the second quarter.

The deep ball continues to kill the Saints secondary this season. Bridgewater launched a 74-yard bomb to DJ Moore for a touchdown to make cut the Saints' lead to 14-10 with 10:56 left in the first half. It was the longest play allowed by the Saints defense this season.

With the Saints driving, defensive end Brian Burns dipped to beat left tackle James Hurst and was credited with a sack-fumble that the Panthers recovered. Bridgewater then completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to Moore to put the Panthers up 17-14 with 1:44 left in half. It was their only lead of the game.

Brees worked the 2:00 offense to perfection. The Saints went 75 yards in eight plays and retook the lead on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Brees to Harris to make it 21-17 just before halftime.

The Saints defense forced the Panthers to punt on their first drive of the second half. The Saints then used some trickery on a third-and-1. Brees pitched the ball to Kamara, who tossed it back to Brees, who then threw a deep pass to Tre’Quan Smith for a 23-yard gain. A penalty later forced a field goal and Wil Lutz was true from 41 yards out to extend the lead to 24-17 with 4:28 remaining in the third quarter.

The Saints' red zone defense continues to be a major issue, as the Panthers responded with a 5-yard touchdown run by Curtis Samuel to tie the game, 24-24, with just :08 left in the third quarter.

Another field goal by Lutz, this one from 43 yards out, put the Saints up 27-24 for the remainder of the game.

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