Saints Defense Holds; Advances to Divisional Round

The New Orleans Saints defense needed a stand after giving the ball back to the Carolina Panthers on a fourth-and-two play from the Panthers 47 that led to an interception by Mike Adams. Carolina completed a few passes to eventually get to the Saints 21-yard line. After a questionable intentional grounding call, Cam Newton threw a pass into the end zone on a third-and-23 intended for Devin Funchess and it went through his hands. On fourth down, Cam Newton was sacked by Vonn Bell to seal a 31-26 win for the Saints over the Panthers.

After a missed 25-yard field goal by Graham Gano in the first-quarter, Drew Brees threw a 80-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn. Ginn finished with four receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown. With the Saints leading 7-3 in the second, Josh Hill caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees. Hill finished with three receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Brees completed 23-of-33 passes for 376 yards two touchdowns and one interception. Michael Thomas was the Saints leading receiver with eight receptions for 131 yards. With the Saints leading 14-6 later in the second, Zach Line scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.

With Carolina down 24-12 in the fourth, Cam Newton threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen. Olsen finished with eight receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. On the ensuing drive for the Saints, Alvin Kamara scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. Kamara finished with 23 rushing yards on 10 carries and a score. He also caught one pass for 10 yards receiving. Mark Ingram was contained to 22 rushing yards on nine carries. He also caught one pass for 13 yards receiving.

The Saints rushing attack was contained all game long by the Panthers defense. New Orleans rushed 22 times for 41 yards. Later in the fourth, Cam Newton threw an intermediate pass to Christian McCaffrey and he took it 56 yards for a touchdown. McCaffrey caught six passes for 101 yards receiving and a touchdown. He also rushed for 16 yards on six carries and a touchdown. Newton completed 24-of-40 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns. Newton also rushed for 37 yards on eight carries. He was knocked out of the game for a little bit in the fourth-quarter and Newton went under concussion protocol and he was obviously put back in the game. Backup quarterback Derek Anderson has only attempted eight passes all season long and he attempted one pass in the game and it was incomplete.

Jonathan Stewart was Carolina’s leading rusher with 51 yards on 11 carries. Graham Gano made four field goals for the Panthers (27, 39, 58, and 29 yards). Had Gano made that field goal early in the game for the Panthers. maybe Carolina treats the final drive a little bit differently. The small things matter in the postseason. Will Lutz made a 57-yard field goal for New Orleans in the third quarter. The Panthers season comes to an end and the Saints will go on the road to face the Minnesota Vikings (13-3) in the NFC Divisional Round next Sunday. The Vikings defeated the Saints 29-19 in week one of the season.

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