Brees, defensive stand, help Saints survive Panthers, 31-26

The New Orleans Saints Now Play in the No Fun League

Under Richardson, the Panthers have compiled an overall record - regular season and postseason - of 183-184-1 since the Carolina's inaugural season in 1995. The Saints defeated the St. Louis Rams, 31-28, on December 30, 2000, in the dome for their first-ever playoff win after splitting during the regular season.

If not for poor red-zone offense from the Panthers, the Saints could have faced even more trouble than they did. Says it's not the way they wanted it to end.

"There are a couple of plays I personally would like to take back", Panthers safety Kurt Coleman said.

"I wish we could bring like 10 fans right in the middle of the field and have them hear what happens", Payton said of the lift their noise gives his team.

But Newton returned with a vengeance, needing just three plays to whirl the Panthers 75 yards and back nipping at the Saints' heels.

New Orleans held a 12 point lead going into the fourth quarter, but the game ended up coming down to the final seconds and required a defensive stand deep in Saint territory. Fullback Zach Line scored on a one-yard plunge the next play to put the Saints up 21-6 with 43 seconds left before the break. My helmet had came down low enough over my eyelid and it got pressed into the player's stomach, I believe. Unfortunately, field goals by the Panthers traded in exchange for touchdowns against the Saints led to a shortage in points and eventual Carolina loss.

Facing a fourth-and-2 from the Carolina 47-yard line with two minutes left, the Saints inexplicably went for the first down and Brees' pass was intercepted.

Kaelin Clay dropped a sure touchdown pass from Newton on the ensuing third-down play, and Graham Gano missed a 25-yard field goal on fourth down.

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In the National Football League money exchange, touchdowns trump field goals, and that's exactly what the Saints did in taking a 21-9 halftime lead over the Panthers: three touchdowns to three field goals. They have nobody but themselves to blame for the loss. When I heard the call, I said, 'Go make a play. And that's precisely what Brees did, throwing for 376 yards and two touchdowns. But on the final series, with his last five snaps, he threw three incompletions, was charged for intentionally grounding the ball and was sacked.

Newton was pressured the most in the fourth quarter.

Newton also said the injury was to his eye.

Brees consistently found his targets with Michael Thomas shining to haul in eight catches for 131 yards.

Newton finished 24 of 40 passing for 349 yards and two touchdowns, including a 56-yard scoring strike to Christian McCaffrey that pulled the Panthers within a touchdown with 4:09 left.

NOTES: Reggie Bush led members of the Saints' Super Bowl XLIV team onto the field just before the kickoff.

Saints: Starting left guard Andrus Peat was carted off the field with a broken left fibula.

"What we've shown offensively is we have a lot of ways to be effective", Brees said, mentioning clutch first-down catches by Brandon Coleman and Willie Snead in addition to the big plays by Ginn and Thomas.

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