Drew Brees picks apart Panthers; Saints win 31-26 at Superdome

Drew Brees picks apart Panthers; Saints win 31-26 at Superdome

Drew Brees picks apart Panthers; Saints win 31-26 at Superdome

The Panthers came in with the NFL's third-ranked rush defense and held the Saints to 41 rushing yards.

The Saints advance to the NFC Divisional playoffs at Minnesota, a 3:40 p.m. Sunday match up with the Vikings. The Panthers finished their season 11-6. The wheels kept turning for Brees, who found Josh Hill for a 9-yard TD pass and put together one of the best sequences of the season in the process: completing all seven passes on the drive for 79 yards. And that's why the Saints were able to hang on this game.

Brees said Payton asked him during the timeout, "Do you want to go for it?"

Drew Brees and the Saints are celebrating. Surely there isn't going to be a week's worth of "Bountygate" stories leading up to this matchup. Brees's prolific-once-more passing carried the Saints to a 31-26 triumph over the Carolina Panthers in an NFC first-round game. However, he was ruled to still be in the pocket and intentional grounding was called.

That came with nine minutes left in the game, when the Carolina quarterback twisted out of a tackle and as he was rising from a hunched position was blasted in the face by New Orleans defensive tackle David Onyemata for a 10-yard loss. After a pair of lackluster offensive series, Brees connected on an 80 yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr.

A victory was just a completion away by Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who was looking like Joe Montana as he fought off a quick concussion protocol to go 7 of his first 8 passes in the fourth quarter for 156 yards with touchdowns of 14 and 56 yards to get Carolina within a touchdown of winning. But the Panthers killed themselves with red-zone failures.

The Panthers, who settled for three field goals in four attempts in the first half, drove to another field goal on the first possession of the third quarter.

Gano kicked 27, 39, 58-yard field goals in the second quarter.

"I just have to be better", he added. "At this point, we've just got to win games". That Cam was going to play a brilliant football game.

Newton threw for 349 yards, hitting Greg Olsen on a 14-yard touchdown with 12:47 remaining for the Panthers' first touchdown. Thomas paced his team with eight catches for 131 yards.

Cam Newton exited Carolina's wild-card loss to the New Orleans Saints after taking a hit to the head in the fourth quarter.

Brees' lone blemish came on that conversion, where he threw the ball up for grabs and Carolina safety Mike Adams came away with the interception.

Newton returned to the game shortly after. "And it was really getting poked in the eye".

The former MVP also tallied his second-longest touchdown pass of his career in the postseason on Sunday, a 55-yard hookup with rookie running back Christian McCaffrey.

Now it's on to Minnesota where the Saints didn't exactly distinguish themselves in Week 1, falling victim to one of the NFL's top defensive units and hot-handed quarterback Sam Bradford who suffered a knee injury and relinquished the starting job to veteran Case Keenum.

-The Saints scored three touchdowns in the first half.

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