The Carolina Panthers defeated the New Orleans Saints 35-27 in their home opener Sunday afternoon.
In a game that started out poorly for the Panthers, they answered the bell and did everything they needed to show that they aren’t the team that the Buccaneers defeated last week. Drew Brees got the ball back with under a minute and 80 yards to go. LB Jon Beason intercepted a pass as he was in his zone coverage, standing just in front of the NFL shield. He lept up, snagged the ball, and returned it a few yards before taking a knee to hand the ball back to Cam for one final kneel down.
New Orleans scored on their first possession…an 11 play 80 yard drive that had Panthers’ fans worrying the worst was happening. After Carolina got the ball back and punted again, everything changed.
Brees was pinned at his own 9-yard line and rolled out to the right and back in the Saints’ own end zone and flipped a short pass that safety Charles Godfrey broke on, intercepted, returned, and evened the score before anyone knew what happened.
From that point on, the Panthers played like they felt it was their day while the Saints’ offense sputtered but scored two more field goals. With Carolina’s score on defense, the Panthers kicked off to the Saints. Brees marched them down the field well enough, but consecutive dropped passes at the goal line by the Saints forced them to settle for a 22-yard FG. They added another one from 53 yards to get their biggest lead of the day while the Panthers’ offense took some time getting itself settled in.
Cam Newton hit RB Jonathan Stewart for a 17-yard catch and run to culminate a 74-yard drive. The Panthers added another TD on a 2-yard run by beastly Mike Tolbert for a 21-17 halftime lead.
DeAngelo Williams scored on a 3-yard run in the 3rd quarter to push it to 28-17.
The Panthers finished their scoring on a Newton 5-yard run. Their final scoring drive’s big highlight there was a 66-yard reception and run by Steve Smith, who had 104 yards on 3 receptions – all of which seemed to come at key times. On his longest catch, a corner blitz left him wide open when he wasn’t picked up about 10 yards down field by the sidelines and off he sped until forced out of bounds by angling defenders.
Newton only attempted 20 passes with 14 completions for 253 yards and a TD…with zero interceptions. While he was the leading rusher as well with 71 yards, 3 Panthers had over 50 yards rushing on the day.
Drew Brees was 31-49 for 325 yds, the TD to Jimmy Graham and the 2 INTs that nicely bracketed Carolina’s victory.
The Panthers passed for 244 yards and rushed for 219 in a very balanced attack. It’s what the Panthers can do when they flipped the playcalling exactly from last week’s poor showing. They ran it 41 times with only 21 dropbacks with one sack for 6 yards lost.