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NFC Wild Card Weekend: Saints Defeat Panthers

 Saints Defeat Panthers to Advance to Divisional Round

The New Orleans Saints defeated their season-sweep over the Carolina Panthers, defeating them 31-26 in the Wild Card Round at the Superdome Sunday.

The Saints would strike first quarter, thanks to an 80-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Ted Ginn Jr. for the 7-0 lead. The rest of the first 15-minute interval would be a feeling-out process.

After that, the second quarter was a completely back-and-forth affair. For every Graham Gano made field goal, New Orleans replied with a touchdown. Gano had two makes (27, 39), in which the Saints responded with a nine-yard touchdown reception from tight end Josh Hill and a one-yard run from Zach Line. Carolina’s veteran kicker ended the first half with a massive 58-yard field goal to enter halftime with a 21-9 deficit.

The third quarter saw just two field goals, one from Gano (29) and one from Saints kicker Will Lutz (57). While it seemed as though the game was all Saints, the Panthers would show up in a phenomenal fourth quarter.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton struggled for the majority of the game, but he came to life in the fourth quarter. Newton connected with ‘ol reliable Greg Olsen for a 14-yard touchdown, which cut the Saints lead to 24-19.

However, New Orleans would not stumble. A huge 46-yard catch-and-run by wide receiver Michael Thomas set the Saints up in the red zone. Subsequently, rookie Alvin Kamara would do what he did this entire year, and that’s take advantage of his carries. A two-yard goal-line score would increase the Saints’ lead to 31-19.

The Panthers would not falter after the late touchdown by New Orleans. Newton would find rookie running back Christian McCaffrey for a 56-yard touchdown pass to pull them within five points.

Carolina would get the ball back yet again to try and gain the walk-off victory. In that event, however, the Saints defense would come in the clutch.

In the final series, a Newton first pass attempt was almost intercepted by rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore. It was followed by an intentional grounding by the 2015 MVP after Saints defensive pressure. The game would end after a fourth and long sack from Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan and safety Vonn Bell.

Brees would finish the game with 376 yards and two touchdowns, while Newton had 349 yards and two touchdowns as well. The final statline showed four 100-plus yard receivers. For the Panthers Olsen notch eight receptions for 107 yards and a score, while McCaffrey took six catches for 101 yards and the late touchdown. The Saints saw Thomas haul in eight receptions for a whopping 131 yards, while Ginn posted four for 115 yards and a score.

The Saints now move onto the NFC Divisional Round to face off against the NFC North Champion Minnesota Vikings.

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