The setup: The Saints facing a second-and-8 from their 9, 5:41 remaining in first quarter.
What happened: Drew Brees rolled right and tried to throw short to tight end David Thomas. Safety Charles Godfrey read the play, cut in front of Thomas for the interception and returned it 9 yards for a touchdown.
Why it mattered: The Saints had gone 80 yards on 11 plays for a touchdown on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead.
The bad lateral
The setup: Panthers punting on fourth-and-1 from the Saints 4, 11:53 remaining in second quarter.
What happened: With the Panthers needing less than half a yard, Rob Chudzinski inexplicably called an option play. When Cam Newton was stuffed, he tried unsuccessfully to pitch to Mike Tolbert, and Saints linebacker Jonathan Casillas fell on the ball.
Why it mattered: Trailing 10-7, the Panthers didnt need anything fancy. They needed less than a yard to keep the drive going and either tie or take the lead.
The Statue of Liberty
The setup: The Panthers start a drive on their 42, with 2:31 left in the first half.
What happened: Newton faked a handoff, then faked a hitch pass to Steve Smith on the left side. Instead, Newton handed the ball to Brandon LaFell on an end-around, running right. LaFell gained 25 yards to the Saints 33.
Why it mattered: Seven plays later, fullback Mike Tolbert scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to put the Panthers up 21-13.
Big Moneys big strip
The setup: Saints facing a fourth-and-4 at the Panthers 24, 7:19 remaining in fourth quarter.
What happened: With Brees in the pocket, defensive end Charles Johnson made a wide rush and swiped at Brees throwing hand, knocking the ball loose. Brees picked up the ball and tried a desperation lob to tight end Jimmy Graham, but linebacker Jon Beason batted it down.
Why it mattered: The Panthers maintained their two-touchdown lead at 35-20 midway through the final quarter.
The setup: Saints facing second-and-1 from their 29 with 31 seconds left.
What happened: Brees tried to throw over the middle for Graham, but the ball floated directly to Beason, who had cheated toward Grahams side.
Why it mattered: The Saints needed to go 80 yards with 48 seconds left for a shot at the tying touchdown and 2-point conversion. Beason made sure they didnt sniff midfield.