Brees leads Saints past Panthers in NFC wild card game


This game is the last chance of the season for the Panthers to hand New Orleans an L, and to also eliminate the Saints from the playoffs?

The Carolina Panthers ran six plays inside the Saints' 34-yard line over the final, frenetic 58 seconds of their NFC Wild Card playoff game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Sunday afternoon. The wheels kept turning for Brees, who found Josh Hill for a 9-yard TD pass and put together one of the best sequences of the season in the process: completing all seven passes on the drive for 79 yards. Though the Saints lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, they had their shots to win the ball game and clinch the division out right.

In the first NFC game on Wild Card weekend, the No. 6 seed Atlanta Falcons upset the No. 3 seed Los Angeles Rams.

When New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton worked for Bill Parcells as an offensive play-caller, he occasionally was accused by his crusty boss of "wandering off the reservation" in his decision-making. That cut the Saints lead back to five again.

It's the traditional chant of New Orleans football fans - because of it they've simply become known as Who Dats - and Sunday it was apparently louder than ever. The call left Panthers coach Ron Rivera upset. "It hurts with communication". But at the same time, they may be doing some different things that we have to get ready for to go out and stop. Thankfully, the strength of the Panthers' offense lies in their running game and not their inconsistent passing game.

"The bat (he carried on the field in 2009) will live on forever", Bush said. "I stood up to the plate to help this team".

"That was huge, ' Brees said". "You begin to take shape as the season progresses as to who you become".

"It's a brotherhood that will always be there, a kinship that can never be broken". However, New Orleans was on the brink of a complete meltdown late. "I mean they've been to their Super Bowl, let 'em go to another one next year". My helmet had came down low enough over my eyelid and it got pressed into the player's stomach, I believe.

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The Panthers turned in a highly successful 11-5 season this year to tie with the New Orleans Saints for the lead in the NFC South. "When you do that, you put yourself in a very scary position". Newton tried to jog to the sideline, but dropped to both knees about 10 yards away from the Carolina bench. "I'm glad he intercepted it. It worked to our advantage".

The Panthers - with no time outs - still moved the ball downfield quickly and reached the Saints' 21-yard line with 41 seconds remaining. It didn't happen thanks to the Saints defense. It appears Cam Newton was outside of the pocket before releasing the pass that was deemed intentional grounding. The infraction cost the Panthers 13 yards and a 10-second runoff. Ginn posted four catches for 115 yards including an 80-yard bomb from Drew Brees in the first quarter. Brees rolled out far right, and he proved his 39-year-old (on January 15) legs are still good enough.

It was really Brees and two other Saints leading the offense on Sunday in a season that has been squarely focused on Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.

Newton threw for 349 yards, his second highest total of the year, including a 56-yard touchdown pass to running back Christian McCaffrey that brought the Panthers within five with 4:09 to go. Brees threw a fourth-down interception on a gamble by the Saints. He had only thrown for over 300 yards three times in 2017.

Brees got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, misfiring on 3 of his first 5 passes, but he closed the half hitting 11 of 13 and finished 13 of 18 for 230 yards and two touchdowns.

"It was an eruption and you felt l like, 'All right, '" Brees said.

"Our quarterback was out of the pocket", he said.