Tuesday, 24 April, 2018

Saints defeat the Panthers 31-26, advance to NFC divisional round

Minnesota Vikings Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum at U.S. Bank Stadium
Domingo Copeland | 08 January, 2018, 04:24

And because the universe has a cruel sense of humor, Clay dropped a would-be third-down touchdown pass in the first quarter of Sunday's 31-26 loss in the Superdome, while two plays later, the vertical threat the Panthers let walk last spring scored an 80-yard touchdown pass that completely shifted the momentum in the Saints' favor.

Prior to Ginn's touchdown, Carolina's defense had quarterback Drew Brees looking a little discombobulated, and had held the Saints to minus-9 yards of offense on its first two drives of the game.

The Panthers had a first down on the Saints 26-yard line with 58 seconds left, but heavy pressure by All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan a couple plays later induced an intentional grounding penalty on Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, making it third-and-25 on the Saints 34 and a required 10-second runoff left 22 seconds on the clock.

Newton was sacked in the fourth quarter and forced from the game after taking a huge hit to the head.

The Panthers finally reached the end zone on a 14-yard pass from Newton to Greg Olsen, cutting the Saints lead to 24-19 with 12:47 left in the game.

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The referees ordered Newton into the sideline tent to be evaluated for a concussion, but a few minutes later, he bounced out with ice on his forehead and looked ready to return.

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. Fullback Zach line and running back Alvin Kamara each ran for short touchdowns, the latter set up by Michael Thomas 46-yard reception. Newton finished 24 of 40 passing for 349 yards and two touchdowns, the other a 56-yard scoring strike to Christian McCaffrey that pulled the Panthers within a touchdown with 4:09 left.

But after Sunday, he'll be remembered as the one that got away - literally - for four catches, 115 yards, a touchdown, and a trip to Minnesota for next Sunday's divisional playoffs. Gano had made 29-of-30 kicks before that miss, and his only failed attempt had come from 55 yards out. After an incompletion in the end zone, Vonn Bell sacked Newton with six seconds left.

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

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