This was not a good game for Saints fans as New Orleans still was able to get yards but not scores. Drew Brees had his worst game of the season by the numbers as he completed only about half his passes, throwing for 231 yards, one interception, and no touchdowns.
The Panthers gave a strong defensive effort that included a sack and two turnovers but caused probably more damage to the team‘s morale. The earlier losses for New Orleans were by a combined 10 points. For the first time this season, New Orleans was blown out.
The game did not look in the first half like it would be the pounding it was. Carolina got the ball first. Starting from their 28 yard line, the Panthers moved down the field but were forced to kick a 39-yard field goal when T Kendrick Clancy sacked QB Jake Delhomme on third down.
Carolina’s defense helped both by limiting the amount of time New Orleans was on the field and by creating a turnover when RB Jonathan Stewart ran 18 yards into the end zone. Carolina also hit a 48 yard field goal with 3 and a half minutes left in the half.
New Orleans started their first possession with the pass but struggled once they began running the ball and finished by punting from midfield. New Orleans had their best possession of the game with a 78 yard drive, taking 9 plays and almost four and a half minutes. The drive started with a 29 yard run by RB Reggie Bush that looked like it might go all the way. The Saints ended the drive with their only score being a 1-yard touchdown run by FB Mike Karney.
Following a near interception by Ken Lucas, the Saints turned the ball over when Brees threw a short pass to Shockey who fumbled, giving Carolina the ball on the Saints 40 which turned into seven points with Jonathan Stewart‘s TD run.
The Saints were still in the game as the first half ended. At halftime, the Saints had 78 yards rushing to the Panthers 60, more first downs and better third down efficiency, had only one penalty for 5 yards, but had been outscored 13 to 7.
Starting the second half, New Orleans got the ball first but went three and out. Carolina also went out after three plays on their next possession but the last play was a 39-yard deep pass to WR Steve Smith in the end zone, making the score 20 to 7 for the Panthers. RB DeAngelo Williams caught a 4-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter to drive the score up to 27 for the Panthers. Carolina also scored a 28-yard field goal at the two-minute warning.
New Orleans struggled to create anything in the second half as they missed two crucial fourth down conversions, in particular one that would have given them the ball inside the one-yard line. Turnovers were also key as the Saints had two while the Panthers had none. In addition to the fumble in the first half, Brees’ deep pass to WR Marques Colston midway through the third quarter was intercepted by Ken Lucas, setting the DeAngelo Williams touchdown.
Panthers QB Jake Delhomme played well, completing 14 of 22 pass attempts for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. WR Steve Smith had 122 yards and a touchdown. Saints WR Devery Henderson led his team with 80 yards on three catches.
The Saints were able to continue their streak of not allowing a 100 yard rusher this season.
Bad news for the Saints when Reggie Bush, who had been limited in practice this past week due to swelling in his knee, re-injured it following a punt return that was the last play of the first half. Bush had 55 yards rushing but did not return for the rest of the game.
The Saints were expected to be in much better shape with injuries this week as both starting wide receiver Marques Colston and tight end Jeremy Shockey were both back in the game. Shockey had five catches for 50 yards and Colston was unable to catch the ball. Other New Orleans players out for the game against Carolina included rookie DT Sedrick Ellis, CB Aaron Glenn, WR David Patten, DT Antwan Lake, OT Jermon Bushrod, and backup QB Joey Harrington.
This was the first division loss for New Orleans and they are now 1-1 after beating Tampa Bay in game 1 of the season. The Saints play the Chargers next week in London and will have a bye the following week.