Carolina’s Cam Newton threw a touchdown pass and Graham Gano kicked three goals as the Panthers’ defenders silenced a late New Orleans Saints rally for a 23-20 NFL triumph on Thursday.
The result left both clubs on 4-6 this season, two games behind National Football Conference South leaders the Atlanta Falcons with six games remaining.
New Orleans scored the final 17 points in the fourth quarter, but Carolina, who had not managed a first down in three prior possessions, ran the clock down to only 14 seconds before giving the ball back to the Saints.
Drew Brees made three completions to the Carolina 44-yard line before time expired, but it was too little, too late.
“We put ourselves in a bad situation when we got a big lead, but we did a great job as a football team of finishing the game,” Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said.
Gano kicked a 32-yard field goal in the first quarter, but Saints kicker Will Lutz answered from 27 yards to pull New Orleans level.
Jonathan Stewart’s one-yard touchdown run capped an eight-play drive set up by Kurt Coleman’s interception of a Brees pass to put Carolina ahead and Gano added a 49-yard field goal to give the Panthers a 13-3 edge.
After a penalty wiped out a Carolina touchdown on a blocked field goal run-back, the Panthers scored on the next play when Newton connected with Ted Ginn Jr on a 40-yard touchdown pass to give Carolina a 20-3 halftime advantage.
Gano added a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter and Lutz answered again from 30 yards to begin the fourth quarter and pull the Saints within 23-6.
New Orleans finally reached the end zone with 11 minutes, 22 seconds to play when Brees connected with Brandon Coleman on a nine-yard touchdown pass to lift the Saints to within 10 points.
The Saints drove 76 yards in 13 plays for another score, Brees flipping an eight-yard touchdown pass to Coby Fleener with 2:52 remaining to create the final margin.
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