Brees leads Saints past Panthers in NFC wild card game

TODAY Sports

Brees passed at will on the Panthers defense, which was lucky enough to cling on until the end.

The New Orleans Saints have invested multiple draft picks and salary cap space in free agency on former Ohio State Buckeyes, and those investments paid dividends in their 31-26 win over the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday night.

Tim Givens of The Times-Picayune tweeted a photo of headline that's bound to anger some Panthers fans. Although he threw an interception on a critical fourth down in the game's closing stages, the veteran will still be pleased by his performance, which helped clinch a divisional-round matchup against the Vikings next Sunday.

"Night and day", Brees said. "We knew coming in this would be completely different". The Saints had only 41 rushing yards.

Brees finished with 376 yards passing in the wild card weekend game, with two touchdown passes.

Guys like Bell, Michael Thomas, and Ted Ginn Jr. have have added their names to Saints playoff lore, joining the likes of Bush, Colston and Hartley, who were there to see it on this throwback Sunday.

Yet after that instance and ones involving Russell Wilson - the Seahawks were fined $100,000 in Week 10 when Wilson wasn't evaluated properly - and Savage prompting changes to the concussion protocol, the NFL's player safety stance remains unclear.

Carolina had no problem getting within scoring distance against New Orleans, but the Panthers had major issues finding the endzone.

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

Newton drove Carolina to a first down at the Saints 21, but the game ended with a fourth-down sack by safety Vonn Bell. "We felt like we had a great game plan going". Here's a look at where the Panthers tackles lined up before the snap...

That left the Panthers with 1:51 on the clock and 69 yards to cover if they were to pull out the win.

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The run game came alive in the second half as well, rookie running back Alvin Kamara found paydirt with a 2-yard touchdown run.

But on Carolina's next drive, Newton was hit in the helmet by Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata on a sack.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera thought Newton had been poked in the eye. "We had an opportunity".

Ginn was not disrupted at the line of scrimmage as he began his route, and that was partially the fault of Munnerlyn, who allowed the receiver to skim freely past him and into the seam. "That's a tough one to handle".

"Everything moves more when the Panthers are doing well", Lockhart said. "We held them in the red zone". Newton briefly left the game and cleared a medical-tent examination, but while that was going on, the Saints were once again crafting a masterful drive.

In the first half alone, Brees connected on 13 of 18 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

"That was huge, ' Brees said".

Not only that, but Gano would bury a 58-yard field goal just before halftime to cut the score to 21-9.

Newton missed an open receiver in the end zone on the opening series, leading to a missed field goal by Graham Gano. The teams met in the September 11 season opener, with Minnesota winning 29-19 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Carolina's defense did its job early, holding the Saints to back-to-back three-and-outs. And let's face it, the Saints are a better team. "He is still Drew Brees".

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