Saints battle past Panthers for 20-17 win

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The New Orleans Saints were in search of their first win at Charlotte since 2020. In fact, the Saints were in search of their first win over the Panthers since 2021 after dropping both games to Carolina a year ago.

In the last four meetings in 2021 and 2022 against Carolina, the Saints scored a total of 46 points in four games. In those games, the Saints were quarterbacked by Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, who got the only win, and Andy Dalton.

Derek Carr got his first chance against the Panthers as quarterback of the Saints in the first Monday Night Football appearance for the Panthers in five years.

For the first time since 2013, the Saints are 2-0, joining Atlanta and Tampa Bay atop the NFC South after two weeks of play.

Despite its offense sputtering at times, New Orleans found enough of it and played sound defense.

Here are my Quick Takes from the 20-17 Saints victory over the Panthers:

**Saints inactives included Lynn Bowden Jr., Kirk Merritt, Kendre Miller, A.T. Perry, Kyle Phillips and Nick Saldiveri.

**The Panthers featured former Saint Calvin Throckmorton at right guard and former Saints safety Vonn Bell in the secondary. Former Saints quarterback Andy Dalton got on the field for two snaps, one officially.

**Taysom Hill, who had just three carries and limited snaps a week ago, was on the field for the first snap of the game. Hill took the fourth snap of the game at quarterback. It was the shape of things to come as Hill was way more involved than he was against the Titans.

**The Saints made one first down, allowed a sack with multiple defenders pressuring Derek Carr and Frankie Luvu getting the sack and Lou Hedley hit an awful, low punt of just 29 yards to the Carolina 35-yard line.

**The Panthers drove 31 yards in nine plays and Eddy Pineiro drilled a 52-yard field goal, his 20th consecutive made field goal, to give the Panthers a 3-0 lead with 7:04 to play in the first quarter. On the drive, Bryce Young connected with Adam Thielen three times for 22 yards.

**Jimmy Graham got a lot of snaps early in the game.

**Michael Thomas made two catches early in the game. His second catch was the 533rd in his New Orleans career, surpassing Eric Martin for second all-time in catches in franchise history. Marques Colston is first with 711 catches.

**Linebacker Shaq Thompson went down injured late in the first quarter for the Panthers when his right leg was rolled up on by Trevor Penning. Thompson was carted off with a shin injury.

**The Saints got even on a 26-yard field goal by Blake Grupe to cap a 15 play, 65-yard drive which took 6:28 off the clock. Carr was pressured on third down and threw the ball away as pass protection remained an issue on any downfield throws. It was again the left side of the offensive line that was the issue, much like against Tennessee.

**The Saints then drove 51 yards in 12 plays, taking 4:23 off the clock and had a first-and-goal at the Carolina 4-yard line but once again, could not finish the drive. Grupe kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it 6-3 with 9:52 to play in the half.

**Jamaal Williams left injured midway through the second quarter, heading to the locker room with a hamstring injury.

**Carr then made a terrible decision, throwing into coverage with three defenders and Bell intercepted it and returned it to the New Orleans 37-yard line.

**The Saints defense came up big again as Carl Granderson sacked Young, who fumbled. Paulson Adebo recovered the loose ball at the New Orleans 41-yard line.

**It did not matter. Trevor Penning and Cesar Ruiz, both first round picks, took turns getting whipped for sacks and the Saints had to punt.

**The Saints had 139 yards and held the Panthers to just 88 yards in the half. Carr was just 13 of 26 for 102 yards with an interception in the half. Carr was sacked three times and was under pressure most of the time.

**Thomas had seven catches for 55 yards in the half, the most catches he has recorded in a half since Dec. 16, 2019 when he caught nine passes against Indianapolis.

**Bryan Bresee made a big play with a sack of Young and a fumble which he recovered at the Carolina 12-yard-line but the big play was negated by a defensive holding call on Adebo.

**The penalty cost the Saints points and resulted in points for Carolina. Instead of getting the ball at the Carolina 12-yard line, the Panthers ended up punting and pinning the Saints back at their own 3-yard line and forced a 3-and out and got the ball at the New Orleans 41-yard line.

**That set up a 54-yard field goal by Pineiro, his 21st straight made field goal, and the game was tied 6-6 with 9:09 to play in the third quarter.

**New Orleans then finally got the big play it desperately needed as Carr threw a deep ball for Chris Olave. Despite having his arm grabbed with no call made, Olave came up with a brilliant catch, knocking it to himself with one hand and securing it for 42 yards to the Carolina 30-yard line.

**This time, the Saints finished the drive as the offensive line stepped up and blocked for the run game and Tony Jones Jr. scored on a 2-yard run to give New Orleans a 13-6 lead with 2:56 to play in the third quarter. The drive covered 75 yards in 10 plays and took 6:14 off the clock. It was the first touchdown in the young career of Jones.

**The Saints had a drive which reached the Carolina 42-yard line early in the fourth quarter. On third-and-two, Pete Carmichael called a drop back pass play and Carr was sacked. He had no chance with very poor blocking on a stunt and the Saints had to punt. Why wouldn’t you run the ball twice? It was four-down territory.

**Carolina put together an 11 play, 62-yard drive, highlighted by a 26-yard run by Young which set up a 36-yard field goal by Pineiro, his 22nd straight make, to make it 13-9 with 5:30 to play in the game.

**Needing a drive, the Saints got it to put the game away, going 79 yards in six plays. The big play, much like against the Titans, was the long ball from Carr to Rashid Shaheed on a stop-and-go route for 46 yards. Carr, a good deep ball thrower, put it on him.

**Taysom Hill then rambled 19 yards and gained five more with a 9-yard completion to Olave sandwiched in between before Jones scored his second touchdown on a 2-yard run to make it 20-9 with 3:14 to play in the game.

**New Orleans then went to the predictable prevent defense and prevented nothing. The Panthers drove 75 yards in 11 plays, taking just 1:58 and scored on a 2-yard pass from Young to Thielen. Young then hit Thielen with the 2-point conversion to make it 20-17.

**The outside leverage was very poor, with the Saints allowing the Panthers to complete passes four times and to get out of bounds to stop the clock and preserve timeouts. You have to have outside leverage in those situations, make them complete passes to the center of the field, keep the clock moving and force them to call timeouts.

**Carolina attempted the onside kick and D’Marco Jackson recovered it.

**Pete Carmichael wisely went with power, with three tight ends and Hill at quarterback and Hill raced left for 12 yards and a first down. Rather than try to make more yards, Hill slid down in bounds to force Carolina to take one of its two timeouts and the Saints were able to run the clock out with the win.

It was not a thing of beauty but it never is against Carolina, post Drew Brees. The 20 points scored is the most since Brees was the New Orleans quarterback.

Seeing Hill deeply involved in the offense was a good sighting and a good sign. When Hill gets going, good things happen for the Saints. He finished with nine carries for 75 yards and completed a pass for eight yards as the Saints rushed for 134 yards.

After a very shaky first half, Carr played solidly in the second half and made the two big throws to Olave and Shaheed.

The Saints have playmakers in Olave, Shaheed and Hill. Thomas has looked solid in two games. Juwan Johnson can certainly make plays and Alvin Kamara is still to come.

The concern is the injury to Williams, who joins Kendre Miller on the injured list. Jones and Hill will have to carry the load again next week.

Carr summed it up perfectly afterwards.

“We’re 2-0 and we do not feel like we have played that well yet,” Carr said.

That is certainly true of the offense.

The Saints allowed four sacks with a leaky offensive line in pass protection yet again.

The defense was brilliant, until relaxing on that final drive by Carolina and making the game much more interesting than it should have been. The Saints sacked Young four times. The Saints have now held 10 straight opponents to 20 points or less, a franchise record.

Carr finished 21 of 36 for 228 yards with an interception. He was good in the second half, going 8 of 10 for 126 yards.

It is the first time in franchise history that the Saints have won their first two games of the season by three points or less.

It is a short week and a travel week again as the Saints head to Green Bay to face the Packers Sunday. Green Bay blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead and lost 25-24 at Atlanta to fall to 1-1.

To win, the Saints must be better offensively, more consistent.

You had to expect some growing pains with a new quarterback and an entire new left side of the offensive line.

The end result is what everyone desired.

The Saints are 2-0 for the first time since 2013.

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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