The Panthers were not able to blow out the Saints like they did when they met last October, but they took away more than just a victory as they beat New Orleans 33 to 31 to end the season. With the NFC South crown and the number-two seed in the playoffs, the Panthers also denied New Orleans a winning record this season and stopped Drew Brees just short of the 402 yards he needed.
Carolina finished the regular season 12 and 4 and will have a bye week before playing their next game. A pre-season pick for the division crown, New Orleans finished the season 8 and 8 and will have time to contemplate changes to the team before next season.
Saints QB Drew Brees was playing for the single season passing record of 5,083 yards set by Dan Marino in 1984. He fell 16 yards short, finishing the season with 5,069 yards, the second most in NFL history. For the day, Brees made 30 out of 49 attempts for 386 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Panthers QB Jake Delhomme made 14 out of 20 attempts for 250 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.
Carolina got the ball first and drove from their 20 to the New Orleans 28 yard line in almost seven minutes, scoring on a 45-yard field goal. After New Orleans went three and out, Carolina drove again down the field, scoring this time on a 26-yard field goal.
After a 42-yard return by WR Skyler Green, New Orleans was able to drive down to the Carolina 3 but had to go for the 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter. Carolina answered back with another field goal, this time from 34 yards with seven minutes left to play in the first half.
On the Saints next possession, Brees threw his only interception of the game to S Chris Harris on a pass intended for WR Marques Colston, giving the Panthers the ball on the New Orleans 29. Four plays later, the Panthers scored their first touchdown of the game when Delhomme threw an 8-yard pass to WR Mushin Muhammad. Then on the ensuing kickoff Skyler Green returned the ball from the 12 but fumbled and DB Dante Wesley returned the ball for a touchdown, making the score 23 to 3.
New Orleans settled down on their next possession and drove down the field from their 20, scoring their first touchdown on a 26-yard pass to Colston with 47 seconds left. The drive was aided by the replay assistant who challenged the ruling of a Colston fumble and Carolina’s recovery by calling an incomplete pass.
At halftime, the score was Carolina 23 and New Orleans 10. The Saints had 167 total yards while the Panthers had 229 yards. The Panthers outrushed the Saints with 151 yards to the Saints 30. At the end of the first half, RB DeAngelo Williams had 143 rushing yards and Brees had thrown for 137 yards.
The Saints had to punt on their first drive of the third quarter and it looked like the game would soon be over when Delhomme hit WR Steve Smith for 54 yards, putting the ball on the six yard line. RB Jonathan Stewart ran two yards in for the touchdown, making the score 30 to 10.
The Panthers missed their next field goal attempt from 41 yards with about three and a half minutes left in the third quarter but the fourth quarter would belong to the Saints.
New Orleans scored their first of three touchdowns on a 7-yard pass to WR Robert Meachem to cap off their last drive in the third quarter. The Saints drove down on their next possession from their six yard line. On a fourth and two, the Saints went for it as Brees threw a 9 yard pass to WR Lance Moore with about five and a half minutes left in the game. New Orleans took the lead for the first time after a 26-yard pass to Colston and a 13-yard pass to Moore in the end zone with 3:11 left to play.
With the score 31 to 30, Carolina needed to score and New Orleans wanted to get the last 16 yards Brees needed to get the passing record. A 39-yard reception by Steve Smith to start the drive put the Panthers on the New Orleans 43 yard line. A few running plays and a short pass to Mohammad later, Carolina kicked the winning field goal from 42 yards with one second left.
The ensuing kick went out of bounds at the New Orleans 40 and because no one touched it, the Saints still had time for a final play which was a deep pass to Lance Moore that fell incomplete.
Carolina finished with 478 total yards, almost evenly split with 234 yards rushing and 244 yards passing. New Orleans had 417 yards, only 50 of which were rushing and 367 passing.
DeAngelo Williams had a fantastic day with 178 yards rushing and Steve Smith had 134 yards receiving. Marques Colston had 123 yards and one touchdown and Lance Moore had 91 yards and two touchdowns.