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New Orleans Saints 31, Carolina Panthers 13

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Saints QB Drew Brees silences Mike Mitchell, shows up Panthers’ secondary

NEW ORLEANS Mike Mitchell is a hard-hitting safety who, in his short time with the Panthers, has become known to send verbal missives to anyone who’s not a Carolina Panther.

Drew Brees was a recent target of a Mitchell barb, and Sunday night in the Superdome, Brees got his redemption in the 31-13 victory against Carolina.

Two weeks ago Mitchell called the New Orleans quarterback “soft,” and Brees responded with vintage play against the Panthers that exposed Mitchell and the entire Carolina secondary.

Coming off the worst offensive performance of the Brees-Sean Payton era against Seattle last week, the Saints (10-3) totaled 373 yards of offense against the Panthers (9-4) with Brees passing for 313 yards while the Panthers racked up a number of blown coverage assignments.

It wasn’t just Mitchell who missed assignments. Strong safety Quintin Mikell had his share, and Brees also picked on rookie cornerback Melvin White as Tom Brady did last month when the Panthers hosted the Patriots.

“There were some issues that did come up that we’ve got to be better with, whether it’s coverage or putting them in position to have better success,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.

The Saints didn’t have an opportunity to overwhelm the Panthers in the first quarter with the Carolina offense holding the ball for 11 minutes and 30 seconds. But Brees tossed three touchdowns in the second quarter while methodically torching Carolina’s defensive backfield.

Brees went 14-of-16 for 160 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter alone. He had eight passes of at least 10 yards.

“They did a good job. We just didn’t play well enough to win,” Mitchell said. “I don’t think they did anything to surprise us or shock us. It was really more we just didn’t execute our game plan.”

By the end of the first half, seven different Saints had made one catch while Marques Colston led them all with five catches for 74 yards.

Colston caught the first touchdown, then he caught the second and on the third touchdown drive, Colston hauled in a 19-yard catch against Mitchell.

The Panthers racked up four defensive penalties in the second quarter, three of which were credited to the secondary – holding on cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, pass interference on cornerback Drayton Florence and pass interference on Mitchell.

“We just didn’t execute well. We had some good defenses called, we just didn’t execute and get off the field,” Munnerlyn said. “It wasn’t coverage breakdowns, it’s just that everybody’s got to hold themselves accountable and be in the right spots.”

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