As Payton discussed the most striking aspects of the Saints' evolution this season, he began by highlighting "the amount of guys we've had to replace and the new faces that are stepping up".
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said it was an issue with his eye - not his head - that sent him to the sideline to be checked for a concussion in Sunday's NFC wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints. And obviously, you don't just look at the games you played them.
Brees tried to chew up the last of the clock, and he succeeded in devouring Carolina's timeouts, but the Saints drive stalled at midfield. But that doesn't mean their game-winning defensive stand wasn't aided by poor officiating.
Panthers leading receiver Devin Funchess, too, is active as expected after being listed as questionable with a sore shoulder.
"I feel like it was kind of taken away from us". Saints safety Von Bell then sacked Newton near midfield on fourth down two plays later, assuring Carolina's third loss to New Orleans this season. After the Panthers missed a field goal, Drew Brees fired an 80 yard touchdown strike to former Panther Ted Ginn Jr. and he connected with tight end Josh Hill on a 9-yard touchdown that gave New Orleans a 14-3 advantage. Cam Newton zipped a 14 yard touchdown to tight end Greg Olsen and the Panthers rally was on. That pass put the Saints in front of the Panthers, 7-0, in the first quarter and they never trailed in the game.
"They were doing a lot of flood-the-zone things when we were in zone coverage", strong safety Vonn Bell said. "We felt like we had a great game plan going".
-The Saints scored three touchdowns in the first half.
Newton wound up completing 24 of 40 passes for 349 yards.
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"Had half of those been touchdowns, we'd be sitting in a different spot", Jordan said. What did in the Panthers' defense was an inability to cover wideout Michael Thomas, who caught eight of his nine targets for 131 yards.
Brees threw a pair of touchdown passes while completing 23 of 33 passes for 376 yards.
After evading pressure by Tyeler Davison, Newton was blasted by Onyemata, who had a free run at the quarterback as Newton was attempting to regain his balance.
Newton then struggled to get to his feet and collapsed to the turf while trying to jog to the sidelines. Panthers coach Ron Rivera offered a similar explanation.
Staff members said that when the Panthers make it to the playoffs, business is booming.
And then, with the season on the line, the defense rose up to keep the Panthers from scoring the touchdown they had to have in the end.
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 problem? It came at the expense of stopping Brees, who could do no wrong until a late interception on an asinine decision by Payton to go on fourth-and-2 at the Carolina 47 with a five-point lead and two minutes remaining.