A dominating performance on offense and defense, gave the New Orleans Saints a 34-3 victory over the Carolina Panthers Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium. The win improved the Saints to 6-3 heading into a week 10 bye and put them in second place in the NFC South with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The three points scored by the Panthers were the fewest given up by the Saints since they held the Oakland Raiders to three in 2008.
New Orleans had 408 total net yards on the afternoon. QB Drew Brees completed 27-of-43 passes for 253 yards with two touchdowns. The New Orleans rushing attack picked up 165 yards on the ground with Julius Jones the leading runner with six carries for 68 yards. WR Marques Colston led the Saints with eight grabs for 65 yards and Lance Moore had six catches for a team-high 77 yards.
The Saints held the Panthers to 195 total net yards, including 68 passing by three quarterbacks as they managed to convert only one-of-12 third down attempts. CB Jabari Greer's 24-yard interception return for a touchdown was the Saints' first defensive score of the season.
New Orleans opened the contest with a 54-yard run by Jones. RB Chris Ivory then moved New Orleans into the red zone with an 11-yard rush. However, two plays later Panthers DB Richard Marshall picked off a Brees pass and returned it 67 yards.
With Carolina taking possession, RB Jonathan Stewart carried for gains of six, 14 and three yards before on second down, QB Matt Moore overthrew WR David Gettis in the end zone. On third down, Moore found Panthers WR Brandon LaFell, but he was taken down by Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Darren Sharper after only a three-yard gain. The Panthers took advantage of the turnover and K John Kasey kicked a 20-yard field goal.
Starting at the 20, New Orleans gained four yards on a pair of run plays, before TE Jimmy Graham made a clutch 13-yard grab on third down. After receiving another first down following a neutral zone penalty, New Orleans failed to convert on their next three downs and were forced to punt near midfield where P Thomas Morstead booted the ball into the end zone.
With Carolina starting at its 20 yard line, Stewart carried on first down for a two-yard gain, where he was tackled by Jenkins and LB Danny Clark. On a second down run, Stewart was knocked down by LB Jonathan Vilma on a play with a five-yard gain that forced the trainers out to attend to the running back. Following a challenge by Saints coach Sean Payton, it was ruled that Vilma had knocked the ball out of Stewart's hands before he went down. The ball was picked up by DE Alex Brown.
With New Orleans assuming possession at the Carolina 27, Brees immediately worked the middle of the field, where he found TE David Thomas for a gain of nine yards. On second down, Ivory moved the chains with a gain of two yards. With a fresh set of downs, starting at the 17, RB Ladell Betts moved forward for a four-yard gain. Brees then worked the middle again, where he found WR Lance Moore for an 11-yard gain. With first and goal at the two, T Jermon Bushrod was called for a false start penalty moving the Saints back to the seven. Facing a rush, Brees threw the first down pass out of bounds. On second down, him and Moore missed a short connection. On the third down play, Brees found TE Jeremy Shockey up the middle in the end zone for the touchdown to give New Orleans the 7-3 lead. The catch was also the 500th of his NFL career, making him only the eighth tight end in NFL history to record that many grabs. Shockey injured his ribs on the play and was brought into the locker room for evaluation.
Carolina drove back up the field into New Orleans territory on a 32-yard run by RB Tyrell Sutton before the clock concluded on the first quarter. However, New Orleans kept the Panthers from getting into the red zone and getting another first down and Kasay's 40-yard field goal attempt sailed wide right.
New Orleans got the ball at the 30, and Brees completed a two-yard throw to Jones and a six-yard throw to Colston, but Betts dive up the middle on third down didn't pick up a gain and Morstead was sent out to punt, booting a 45-yard kick that was returned by return man Captain Munnerlyn for a 17-yard gain to their 35-yard line.
Carolina failed to convert though and on third down, DT Sedrick Ellis took down Moore for a loss on third down for his fourth sack of the season to tie his career-high on a play where it appeared the signal-caller hurt his shoulder. Following the punt, New Orleans would take possession back at their 29-yard line.
On first down, Brees completed a two-yard throw to WR Robert Meachem. Followed by two incompletions, the punt unit came back out. The punt took a favorable drop inside the 20 and following a holding penalty on Carolina, which would bring their starting field position to their six-yard line.
With Jimmy Clausen entering the game in place of an injured Moore, Clausen threw to FB Tony Fiammetta on first down for a two-yard gain. Following a second down incompletion, Tracy Porter was called for pass interference on a third down play to give the Panthers a first down at their 25. On the first down, Sutton was taken down by Vilma for no gain. After a second down incompletion and faced with third and ten, Clausen threw up the middle to Sutton, for an eight-yard gain, short of the first down marker. WR Moore fielded the punt and moved New Orleans' starting position up to their 27-yard line.
On first down Ivory carried and was stopped for no gain. Faced with second and ten, Ivory picked up three yards near the Saints sideline. On third down, Bushrod was called for a false start, moving the down and distance to third and 12. But New Orleans would make up the yardage and some, when Brees completed a 16-yard pass to Colston. Betts then carried up the middle for a gain of 12 yards into the Panthers 47-yard line, moving the chains. On the next first down, Brees completed another first down for a 12-yard gain to Colston near the Saints sideline. Jones then rushed for a six-yard gain. At second-and-four, Brees took advantage of excellent protection and completed a throw to Thomas for a first down. With first down at the 24, Jones carried up the middle to the Panthers 19-yard line. On the next play, Brees found Graham in the end zone for the first touchdown of his career to give New Orleans the 14-3 lead.
The Panthers would not find fruit in their final series of the half, punctuated by a sack by S Roman Harper of Clausen for a seven-yard loss, forcing them to punt.
With New Orleans getting the ball back with under a minute left, Brees quickly led New Orleans on a seven play, 70-yard drive that ended with a field goal by K Garrett Hartley as time expired in the half. The late scoring drive was keyed by a 36-yard completion to Moore and a 22-yard catch by Thomas.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, the New Orleans coverage units pinned Carolina back at their four-yard line when Jenkins and LB Marvin Mitchell tackled RB Mike Goodson. The Panthers would fail to convert a first down and were forced to punt for the fourth time, where it was caught at the New Orleans 43 for a fair catch by Moore.
On second down for New Orleans, Marshall was called for an illegal contact penalty giving the Saints a first down. Brees then handed off to Ivory for a five-yard gain to move into Panthers territory completed a four-yard pass to Moore and Ivory got the first down on a two-yard run. On the next first down, Jones carried for two yards and Colston had an eight-yard reception for a fresh set of downs. Ivory then carried near the Panthers sideline for an eight-yard gain.
Brees then picked up the first down on a completion up the middle to Colston, where a personal foul penalty was assessed to Panthers LB Jon Beason, moving the Saints to the eight-yard line. Inside the ten, Ivory was stopped for a loss of two to the ten. On second down, Brees threw a pass to Jones in the end zone that was caught by him out of bounds. After failing to convert, Hartley kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the Saints a 17-point lead.
Following a 32-yard kickoff return, Carolina failed to convert on three downs for the seventh time, but on a fourth quarter fake punt attempt, LB Jordan Senn rushed for five yards for the first down. The chains were fresh for the Panthers, but on second down, WR Steve Smith was called for an offensive pass interference penalty. On second down, Clausen was forced to throw the ball out of bounds under pressure from DL Anthony Hargrove. On third down, he completed a pass to Goodson, but it was still short of the first down marker as the ensuing punt sailed into the end zone.
Starting at the 20, Ivory ran for two yards and then Brees completed a 13-yard pass to Meachem. With the first down marker fresh, Graham pulled in a 17-yard grab. Betts carried with the ball in Panthers territory and gained one yard. On second down with no receivers in sight, Brees tossed the ball out of bounds. Coming up to a third down, Brees' next throw intended for Moore was broken up by Munnerlyn, forcing New Orleans to punt. Morstead booted a 44-yard punt that was downed by WR Courtney Roby at the Panthers three-yard line.
Facing pressure from Vilma, the Panthers had their first third down conversion of the game, when Clausen threw a pass for their first third down conversion to LaFell. However, two plays later, CB Jabari Greer would pick off Clausen and return the pick 24 yards into the end zone for New Orleans' first defensive touchdown of the season.
On their next series, Carolina was victimized by a pair of false start penalties and then CB Leigh Torrence sacked Clausen on third down, forcing the Panthers to punt out of their end zone.
Starting at the Carolina 46, Brees first completed a six-yard throw to Moore. But then following two straight incomplete passes the punting unit came out with Morstead's kick going out of bounds at the ten-yard line.
Carolina would see their third quarterback enter the game for their next series in Tony Pike. But the Panthers' luck did not change as Baker punted to the Panthers 48-yard line.
Moving to the ground game, Ivory ripped off runs of five and 11 yards to move the Saints up the Carolina 36. On third and 11, Brees, found Moore for a 14-yard gain. New Orleans then moved in the red zone on a pass play with a nine-yard gain to Thomas. On second and one, Betts converted the first down with a gain of three yards. Faced with a third and nine, a pass from Brees intended for Moore in the end zone, resulted in a defensive pass interference penalty on Marshall, which placed the ball at the one-yard line, where Betts carried in for the touchdown.
After Carolina failed to score and went for it on fourth down, Chase Daniel saw his first action at quarterback as a Saint. New Orleans failed to convert and gave the ball back to the Panthers where they failed to put the ball into the end zone before time expired.